TORONTO — One of Israel’s most controversial political figures presented a bold and incendiary plan for the future of Israel to an enthusiastic Toronto crowd May 6, saying that he wants to bring full Jewish sovereignty to the nation.
Moishe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, said his “alternative peace process” would include annexing disputed territories to ensure that Jews had complete control over Israel. Further, he argued that Israelis should encourage Arab citizens to leave and find a home elsewhere.
Feiglin, the head of the Likud party’s Manhigut Yehudi (Jewish Leadership) faction whose ambitions to be prime minister are no secret, argued that Israel will only see more bloodshed if its leaders continue to abide by the Oslo accords. He believes his alternative plan for peace will revive Jewish identity in the region.
“We always thought that the Oslo process was about peace,” Feiglin told a rapt audience of more than 100 at the Chabad Lubavitch synagogue in Thornhill. “It was not about peace. It was about getting rid of these territories in [the West Bank] that carry out our Jewish identity.”
Feiglin said there are two dreams, a Jewish one and an Israeli one. The Jewish dream, he says, is “to fix in the world in the kingdom of God in our own land.”
The Israeli dream, which he says Israeli leaders have adopted over the last 20 years, is to have Israel be like all other nations, with room for everybody.
“We need a solution that gives us the opportunity to make Israel a real Jewish state, and not a state of all citizens,” he said. “If that’s what God expects of us and we fulfil that goal, we have peace.”
The Jewish Defense League of Canada and the Toronto Zionist Council sponsored Feiglin’s appearance in Toronto. While the politician’s ideas ignited the audience, many of whom gave him a standing ovation, some were suspicious about whether his plan would work.
Audience members challenged him on whether Israeli Arabs and Palestinians would react to this plan with extreme violence, as well as whether it would incite even more hatred and hostility toward Israel around the world.
Feiglin sidestepped these concerned and said that surveys from Israel indicate that around 60 per cent of Arabs are looking to leave Israel.
“This is not their land. It’s ours,” Feiglin said. “We should aid those who wish to leave… helping them find work, helping them find places to go and buy homes. We have that money, but today we invest it in continuing the Oslo process.”
He added that an undeniably Jewish state would encourage Jews to immigrate to Israel and spawn a new wave of building and economic growth there. Israel has spent 1 trillion shekels on security, defence and Palestinian aid because of the current peace process, Feiglin estimates.
Feiglin’s campaign has much support in Israel, especially among right-wing nationalists. The current deputy speaker was elected to the Knesset in December 2012 as a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, although Netanyahu has repeatedly tried to oust him from the party.
Feiglin first turned to political activism after then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo accords in 1993. He co-established Zo Artzeinu (This Is Our Land), a right-wing political movement that protested land concessions to Arabs, in the early 1990s.
“A whole generation grew up in the last 20 years under the impression that the land does not belong to us,” he said.
Recently, the deputy speaker called on Netanyahu to investigate riots on the Temple Mount over the Pesach holiday. In April, Muslim extremists intimidated and pushed around Jewish visitors to the holy site.
Feiglin argues that having an Arab presence on the Temple Mount is not just destroying Jewish history, but severing a connection to the land.
“If we have no history, you’re not really a nation,” Feiglin told the crowd. “If you’re not longing for the third Temple by going out there to the Temple Mount, not longing and praying, you’re losing the first and the second.”
Currently, Jewish visits to the Temple Mount are restricted, and Jews aren’t allowed to pray on the site. A bill in the Knesset is in the works to establish equal prayer rights for Jews and Muslims on the Temple Mount.