What Happened to Likud?

Due to an unnatural alliance the party has lost seats, but it has not lost its way.

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By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on March 18, 2013)

My heart goes out to my political opponents on the left who, with a certain amount of glee, are shedding crocodile tears about the fate they claim has befallen Likud. Waxing nostalgic about the Likud of the good old days, they insist that Likud has in recent years deteriorated and turned into an extremist right-wing party that no longer resembles the Likud of yore − which they opposed but presumably admired, at least in retrospect.

Actually, Likud, which traces its origins to the Revisionist movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in 1925, has to this day remained true to the tenets enunciated by Jabotinsky and his successors, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir: a realistic appraisal of Arab opposition to the Zionist enterprise, to the State of Israel after its establishment, and to the Jewish people’s historic rights in the Land of Israel, as recognized by the international community in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine of 1922.

That is what differentiated the Revisionist movement from Chaim Weizmann and his followers, who dreamt of gaining Arab approval for the Zionist enterprise, and who were prepared to agree to the Peel Commission partition plan of 1937, which allocated less than 10 percent of the Palestine Mandate area to the Jewish state. And that is still the difference between the Likud of today and those who have illusions about gaining Arab acceptance of Israel’s existence and are prepared, or even eager, to relinquish Jewish rights in the Land of Israel in the pursuance of an illusory peace with the Palestinians.

It is those Likud members − who in recent years have abandoned Likud’s traditional positions − who have endeared themselves to the left. There is nothing as attractive to the left as a Likud leader who recants and accepts the positions of the left. The outstanding example is Ariel Sharon, who led Likud and had been the architect of Israeli settlement beyond the 1949 armistice lines and then, in a 180-degree policy reversal, uprooted the Gush Katif settlement bloc from the Gaza Strip. He, of course, had never been an adherent of Jabotinsky, had come to Likud from the Labor Party, for a time broke away and formed his own party, Shlomtzion, only to rejoin Likud and finally abandon it to form Kadima.

But he was not alone. He was followed into Kadima by a number of leading Likud politicians who had grown up in the movement, held leading positions in it, and ended up supporting the uprooting of Israeli settlements. Declaring that they are now prepared to reach a settlement with the Palestinians based on the 1949 armistice lines with “minor modifications,” they insist they are the true followers of Jabotinsky.

Actually, they have aligned themselves with those claiming that time is working against Israel and that we had better settle for what we can now before it is too late. Likud’s position continues to be that we have the strength and resources to make time work in our favor − that this is not the time to surrender. That continues to be the main difference between Likud and the left. The latest Likud primary confirmed that this is the overwhelming view of Likud’s members.

The calculations that led American strategic adviser Arthur Finkelstein to recommend that Likud and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu run on a joint ticket in the recent election turned out to be grossly wrong.

Likud lost over a quarter of its representation in the Knesset. It was an unnatural alliance between Likud, a party with deep roots in Israeli society, and Yisrael Beiteinu, a party whose electoral base is shrinking and will continue to shrink. It behooves Likud to return to its independent existence.

 

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