Moshe Feiglin criticized the idea of creating Medinat Yehudah on Yishai Fleisher’s 11 January Arutz Sheva radio show. Unlike most other commentators or politicians, Feiglin is both an astute political analyst and reasonably candid. Are Feiglin’s objections to Medinat Yehudah plausible? The link to the show I am discussing is here. It is worthwhile to review this show before reading further.
I thought Feiglin’s commentary was a mess. Most basically, he wished away the reality of there being two peoples in Eretz Israel: the Israelis and the Jews. What could be more obvious than this? He likens the situation to a captain and crew of a ship who have decided to direct the ship where they want, irrespective of what the passengers signed up for and want. The Jews should therefore take back their state and not create a new one, as the problem is not with the state, which is fundamentally sound.
What Feiglin conveniently forgets is that Medinat Israel was created and fought for early on mainly by Bolsheviks who sought a new Israeli identity, not a Jewish identity in a Torah-compliant state. Does he believe that today’s Bolsheviks have forgotten this? Feiglin also seems to pretend that the “Israelis” exist only at the top. If this were the case—if there were few Israelis compared with Jews—how could one explain Kadima’s plurality in the last election? Simply because most self-identified Israelis do not like their politicians or their political system and do not want to be dhimmis subject to Muslim violence it does not follow that these Israelis want to live under Torah.
When Feiglin suggests taking power from the current Israeli crew, he really means taking power from the Israelis and giving it to the Jews. His approach is thus zero sum. The Medinat Yehudah movement, by contrast, seeks to take land that the Israelis do not want and give it to Jews rather than to Muslims. Medinat Yehudah is thus not inherently zero sum. This approach also neutralizes the real demographic concern that the elites now have: the Jewish birthrate swamping the Israeli birthrate. If Jews live in Medinat Yehudah, however, their birthrate is no longer a threat to the Israelis of Medinat Israel.
Feiglin also claimed that Medinat Yehudah was immoral because it would abandon 95% of Jews (i.e., those who do not live in Yesha). Nonsense! Consider how incoherent the argument is. For Feiglin’s takeover of Medinat Israel to be feasible, there would need to be few Israelis relative to Jews. But then, to condemn Yehudah, he arbitrarily asserts that an actual Jewish state (Yehudah) would not contain the same Jews he is appealing to now. If indeed nearly all Halachically Jewish citizens of Israel want “Jewish Leadership,” then Medinat Yehudah would ultimately contain nearly all such citizens, not just Yesha settlers. Feiglin thus creates an “immoral” Judean straw man—a settler-only state—and criticizes it. And if indeed only 5% would be interested in Yehudah, then who exactly is being led by “Jewish Leadership” in Medinat Israel?
Feiglin threw an interesting curve when he said that Medinat Yehudah was being talked about by the Left, that some of the Left liked the idea because it would allow Israel to avoid paying to expel so many Jews from Yesha. Feiglin asserted that the regime might use the Arabs to do the dirty work, forcing Jews to expel themselves, as they are not armed to protect themselves, thus saving the regime a prohibitive expense. He warned us not to fall into this leftist trap.
Never fear, though, Feiglin has a solution! He recommends that the settlerfolk say that they want to stay, and that they do not insist that the state protect them. However, as the state will not protect them, the arms purchased from settler taxes should be returned to the settlers. He explains that Israel, like all sovereign states, must at minimum provide security for its citizens. Israel cannot be a sovereign state when it comes to collecting taxes but not when it comes to fulfilling the obligation of a sovereign state regarding security. He suggests that this approach can immediately halt the Israeli attempt to expel the Jews of Yesha. Implicitly, this position would also argue that there is no obligation to pay taxes to a state that does not execute its side of the contract. Implicitly as well, the IDF troops in Yesha would be remaining to use these weapons.
But could Feiglin really believe that the Israeli regime takes arguments based on the principles of sovereignty seriously? If Bibi and company intend to abandon Jews to Arab mercy, and thus either to death or to self-defensive flight from Yesha, Feiglin does not explain how the settlers will persuade a single Israeli elite to cough up the arms that settler funds paid for. Why should such elites fear when all they confront are intellectual arguments? Why exactly does Feiglin or anyone else believe that the Israelis would become moral and act lawfully when they have not done so before? Why would they forgo tax revenue and a loyal contingent of Yesha IDF soldiers when they do not have to? Could Feiglin possibly be serious?
Indeed, the Israeli elites have much to fear if Feiglin’s approach succeeded, if Jews really did manage to seize power from the Israelis. As we have seen, Feiglin’s approach is inherently more threatening to the Israeli elites than the Medinat Yehudah approach advocated here. You can bet, then, that the last thing the elites would do is allow Feiglin’s fantasy to become a reality. The most likely interpretation is that the only reason Feiglin is allowed to defend his Jewish Leadership idea is because the elites are confident it will go nowhere—and they will make sure of it. For now it provides a nice way of diverting attention from an approach that could possibly be effective.
I know some will think that Feiglin is simply floating such points about taxes and arms to get them out into the open, to build a body of philosophical justification for a break, all the while saying that he is advocating no such break. Others might think that he has some other secret plan up his sleeve. But this blog is not about fantasies or unsubstantiated theories. In the real world, Israeli leaders have repeatedly misled their followers, intentionally or not, creating or allowing their followers to create elaborate scenarios “explaining” why these leaders really were not endangering Jewish life. I see no reason to build yet another fantastic scenario in which Feiglin is being clever. If we review his approach with the tools developed in this blog, we see that he is doing nothing that will be effective. He does not disrupt the political system powerfully enough to make change possible; rather, he engages in long-term “planning” (e.g., Jewish birthrate) that can easily be countered by the regime. He does not control the scope of the conflict by, for example, breaking off the perfidious “rabbis” from the ruling coalition. He has no ad hoc organizations that are capable of developing, let alone implementing, serious propaganda.
If, however, we return to some of Feiglin’s specifics, we can indeed gain something. While arguments that arms bought from settler taxes should be returned to the settlers will go nowhere, why not advocate that Jews of Yesha stop paying taxes? Why should the settlers serve in the IDF rather than in a Yesha-based independent military? If the regime cannot afford expelling the Jews of Yesha, it certainly cannot afford trying and imprisoning all of them either. But Feiglin will not risk making such obvious points, possibly because he is afraid to do so, possibly because he really believes in seizing the whole loaf (all of Eretz Israel) for himself and his followers.
In fairness, I have omitted one weapon of Feiglin’s that might make all others unnecessary:
J E W I S H L E A D E R S H I P
This formidable slogan, with its magical properties, will perhaps free us of the need for time-tested doctrine and tactics.