The definition of insanity, said Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. It would appear that some of those who see themselves as leaders of the Israeli right are determined to prove Einstein right—New Right leader Naftali Bennett and Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin in particular, both of whom like to quote the great scientist’s famous line.
Both Feiglin and Bennett took sound beatings in the April election, struck fatal blows to the people and values they pretend to represent, and to a certain extent are indirectly responsible for Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman’s insane move. Still, they are back and running in the September election.
Despite racking up multiple failures, Bennett and Feiglin for some reason expect different results this time. They are telling us they’ve changed, learned their lesson, that each will run with the other, and a bunch of other baseless stories. Why “stories”? Because even if the two of them were to run on a joint ticket they might not make it past the minimum electoral threshold. Feiglin’s voters loathe Bennett, and Bennett’s voters detest Feiglin. Their respective failures in April are off-putting to many of those who voted for them. So even if polls deem such a strange alliance viable, the polls could be wrong.
Throughout the previous campaign, both Bennett and Feiglin were well aware that they were hovering near the minimum threshold, but with skill that approached irresponsibility hid that fact from the public and, despite warnings about the possible ramifications, stayed in the race to the very end, leading to a loss of at least six seats for the national camp. It was a dangerous gamble, and repeating it is nothing less than dereliction of duty. The same goes for any other party that aims to run on its own, such as the far-right Otzma Yehudit, which will certainly fail to make it over the minimum threshold and into the Knesset. Votes that are more precious than gold must not be put at risk this way.
Therefore, Bennett, Feiglin, Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Ayelet Shaked—who played a significant role in the downfall of the New Right—have two possibilities: to run on the list of a party that did well in April, or wait out this round. Any other gambit is illegitimate, and poses a danger to the country. Nothing less.
The Likud needs an ideological party to keep it in line, but there is no room for more than one party to its right. The far-right parties who represent voters, both religious and secular, who hate the Likud have not successfully made it over the minimum threshold in decades. This is what happened when the Tehiya party crashed in 1992, which put the government that passed the Oslo Accords in power, and it’s what happened in April with the New Right and Zehut, making it impossible to form a stable right-wing coalition.
People can throw around lofty theories of liberty ad infinitum, but when it comes down to it, it’s the polls that decide an election, not ideas.
So if Bennett, Feiglin, Shaked, Ben-Gvir, or any other public figure on the right feels they must run in September, they should have enough respect to join an existing party. They could join the Likud, in places too low to put them into the Knesset this time around, or be satisfied with a right-wing union. Yes, Bennett and Shaked’s old home must demonstrate responsibility and allow them back, despite the anger over their abandonment last year. These are the options, and there are no others, lest the entire nationalist camp—and thus, the nation—be put at risk.
Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.
This column first appeared in Israel Hayom.