Likud should ask for our forgiveness, not our votes

I pray I will able to vote for Likud again, but right now, their conduct is shameful.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly Likud party meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on March 14, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly Likud party meeting at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on March 14, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Jonathan Feldstein
Jonathan Feldstein

A year ago, I voted for a party other than Likud for only the second time since I moved to Israel. Ideologically and for other reasons, Likud is a comfortable political home for me. In addition, I believed in prior elections that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the best choice to lead the country.

A year ago, when the fourth election in about two years’ time took place, it became clear to me that despite all his strengths and accomplishments—which I do not diminish—Bibi was playing us. To hang on to his political career, avoid prosecution on serious charges, undermine others or any combination of these and other reasons, Bibi refused to bring a budget to a vote. This dragged Israel into two years without a state budget, which was an absurd situation. Thus, Netanyahu not only broke his coalition agreement but automatically triggered new elections. I still admire and respect Bibi for all he’s accomplished, but after this, I was no longer prepared to vote for Likud under his leadership. If he had an expiration date like a container of milk, Bibi went sour long ago.

While the current government is not one that I would have chosen to assemble, I’m glad Bibi is no longer prime minister. I wish Likud would replace Bibi as leader, perhaps with one of those he’s stifled and pushed aside for years. It is not a coincidence that these include some of the best and brightest in the party, and they have been suppressed because Bibi likely sees them as competition, in contrast to those who give him blind support.

Although I do not love the current government for many reasons, Bibi and Likud—along with much of the opposition, which sadly and reflexively lines up with Bibi—have not given me any reason to regret my vote for another party. A political opposition should be about competing ideas and, yes, trying to win back the support of the public in order to govern again. The current opposition under Bibi’s leadership has proven itself to be void of ideas. It appears to be solely interested in the attempt to undermine the sitting government, despite what may or may not be good for Israel.

Recently, a law to provide scholarships to IDF soldiers was passed, but not without gross political antics from Likud. The shameful thing is that this is a law that could—and maybe should—have been enacted during the 12 years Bibi was prime minister. Every Likud member should have reflexively supported it. It should never have been a political vote or a vote intended to embarrass or bring down the government.

Shortly after, recordings were revealed in which Likud members are heard plotting to undermine the government through this vote. That is simply shameful. They actually said outright that they would rather use the soldiers as pawns to topple the government than vote for a law that is and ought to be a national priority. Did I mention that this is shameful?

Miri Regev, one of Bibi’s lapdog Members of Knesset, is quoted saying, “We decided as a party that we’re going to be a fighting opposition and that we want to bring down this government. So, there are no stomachaches [when voting against] soldiers or battered women or cases of rape, because we all understand that this is the rationale.”

I have always found Miri Regev spiteful and vapid. That in the previous government she was set to become foreign minister despite being one of the most undiplomatic people in the Knesset made a mockery of Likud’s internal selection process.

The revelations this week have only reinforced my decision a year ago to bolt the Likud. I am not saying I’m gone for good, and in a party that is one of the few that actually holds internal primaries, there will be people elected who I like and respect more than others. I can live with that. But I no longer want to support a party led by a man who plays internal politics in such a manner. It is transparent that he has interests at heart other than the well-being of the state.

Maybe I’m naïve. That won’t be the worst thing I’ve ever been called. I can live with that too. But the party of Bibi and Miri is not one I can support. I pray that sound heads in Likud will make a change and give me reason to vote for it again someday. Until then, I’ll pray that the sitting government succeeds to the best of its ability and that we’ll be on a path of competing ideas, not using our soldiers as pawns or blaming the sitting government for deals and alliances that the Likud would have made just as quickly.

When voting in Israel, we take a slip of paper with letters representing the party we want to elect and put it in an envelope to be tallied. The letters representing Likud are מחל‎‎. Coincidentally, these letters are the root of the Hebrew word מחילה‎‎, which means “forgiveness.” Rather than asking us to vote for them, the Likud should be asking our forgiveness.

I’m ashamed for the Likud. I hope there’s some degree of shame left among the adults still in the room.

Jonathan Feldstein is a former Soviet Jewry activist, born and educated in the United States, who immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. He is president of the Genesis 123 Foundation, building bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel, and writes and broadcasts regularly in a variety of Christian media, sharing experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He can be reached at firstpersonisrael@gmail.com.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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