In 1999, when I served as a member of the National Religious Party’s Central committee, Knesset Member Hanan Porat asked for my endorsement. I told him that there is no way I will vote for him, because he is responsible for toppling Netanyahu. “And what could we have done after Netanyahu signed the Wye Agreement?” he asked. I explained that the upcoming elections featured two terrible possibilities: Barak’s rise to power, making Netanyahu’s term a wet rightist dream, or a Netanyahu victory that would enable him to form a government without the rightists who undermined him. In both cases, the Right loses, I said.
Knesset members from Tzomet, Moledet, and Tehiya quit the Shamir government in protest of the Madrid Conference, thereby toppling Israel’s most rightist prime minister ever. Their efforts were successful, and Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister. The Right paid the price in the form of the Oslo Accords and by being ostracized from the center of the political spectrum. The same mistake was made by Hanan Porat and his colleagues when they toppled the first Netanyahu government. Instead, we got Barak, the second Intifada, and the shameful flight from Lebanon.
One cannot avoid the conclusion that the worst enemy of the Right and of the settlements in Judea and Samaria are none other than the Right’s Knesset members; moreover, the more blatant their rightist views are, the graver the damage they cause to the long-term goals of the settlement enterprise.
This is why Netanyahu preferred to bring Ehud Barak into the government rather than National Union. These rightist Knesset members always enter a government with an attitude of “don’t upset me or I’ll quit.” Yet with Obama and Ahmadinejad keeping the prime minister busy, he doesn’t need to deal with constant domestic threats.
And as if history is about to repeat, we again hear members of the radical Right threatening to topple the second Netanyahu government, which they view as a leftist government. But what will we get should Netanyahu be toppled? At best, it would be Tzipi Livni with her “two states for two peoples” mantra; at worst, we will see the emergence of a new false messiah who promises “peace with security” or “security with peace.”
Dangerous blend of rabbis, politics
How can rational and educated rightists behave with such shocking political childishness and in contradiction of their voters’ interests? Will they grasp that politics is the “art of the possible?” How many rightist governments need to be toppled, followed by the rise of leftist governments and a blow to the settlement enterprise, before rightist voters who endorse the Greater Israel notion realize they can’t have it all? A government who fails to make any concessions won’t be able to survive, and should a government be toppled because of every small concession, we’ll see the rise of a government that will make huge concessions for nothing (as happened with the Gaza disengagement.)
The Right is maligned by a dangerous blend of rabbis and politics. When existential issues are judged by eternal measures, we have only one answer. Politics does not enable the existence of a pure and ideal state over time. There is a need for compromise and temporary small concessions in order to secure the greater goals.
And so, the word “moderation” has turned into a derogatory term, especially among teenagers whose long-term vision is naturally less developed, and who fail to realize the damage caused by rightist Knesset members to the settlement enterprise time and again. For these youths, a Knesset member who stands before them with fire in his eyes and pledges to fight to the last drop of blood for the sake of the settlements is an admirable figure. “If we follow him, we’ll promote our goals,” they tell themselves, and that’s why you find them at rallies. For the same reason, you don’t see adults at such protests. They already know how it works – exerting political pressure and establishing a rightist government will see the most rightist element toppling it.
The rightist public had not yet internalized the fact that decisions are made at the Knesset and not on the hills of Samaria. A nice protest is good, yet its influence only lasts for the five minutes of airtime on television. Later it evaporates and turns into a painful memory: “So many people were at the protest, yet nothing changed about the government’s policy.”
If you fail to back Netanyahu and boost him, you will not have any influence when the time comes for important decisions. You will not be there for the Land of Israel.
Yossi Sofer currently leads the establishment of a Beit Midrash in Ein Tzurim. He is the former head of the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Netanya