“Zehut doesn’t believe in equality. Zehut believes in prosperity.”
This is one of the many statements that Moshe Feiglin, leader of the Zehut party, (translated as identity from Hebrew) makes on a nightly occasion to a large growing numbers of Israelis, who are finding in him a breath of fresh, or possibly hazy air.
Moshe Feiglin is a former member of the Likud party. He headed the Manhigut Yehudit faction within the party, and represented Likud in the Knesset between 2013 and 2015. Feiglin is a libertarian when it comes to the issue of religion and state, and a staunch supporter of the legalization of marijuana, but behind it all he is hiding an extremely hawkish platform. I meet with Feiglin at Mike’s Place in Jerusalem. The bar is packed. 120 people came to hear him speak about his libertarian vision for Israel and legalizing marijuana. In recent polls, Feiglin’s Zehut party seemingly will determine who might be the next prime minister of Israel.
If I understand you correctly, you’re talking about getting rid of the foundations of the State of Israel and starting something completely new?
In a way you’re right. You are right that we are actually talking about a reset of the whole mindset in Israel. We are talking about liberty, we are talking about a free market… We are talking about a free state. Today we have a very deep state in Israel.
Does this not erase the Zionist identity of the country?
It is very Zionistic plan because if Israel would have a free market, the Israeli economy will flourish in a way that not only waves of Jews will immigrate from the east, like Russia from east Europe to Israel, But also waves of Jews from the wealthier countries like America, Canada and so on. Today, Israel’s society is based on Jews that came mostly from very deep states to Israel, because it was a little bit more free than where they came from… Jew from France for example, that can’t stay there anymore don’t go to Israel but they go to New York or Toronto, and their kids will not remain Jewish. Those Israelis who end up in Miami because Israel is a socialist country, over a million Israelis live today in North America, their kids will assimilate as well. So there’s a deep combination between a free economy and Zionism.
Ten years ago you were in a very different political mindset. You publicly called for the rebuilding of the Temple. You advocated for a halacha State (governed by extreme religious laws) How did you turn libertarian?
The understanding that the state belongs to you and not you to the state, was always there. That’s what led me to create the “This is our land movement,” that brought the concept of civil disobedience in the fight against the Oslo process. That understanding became wider through more circles like the economy, education and others, legalization of marijuana for example, but it’s the same mindset of freedom. So it was always there.
I understood from your lecture that you don’t like the term Palestinians?
That’s right. There is no such thing as a Palestinian. They are Arabs.
Well what are you proposing be done with this individuals who don’t want to live under Israeli control and believe in the right of having their own identity? How would you force them to see things your way?
I would say to them exactly what America would say to someone who does not except sovereignty of American on American soil. Exactly the same thing.
Which is what?
Which is if you don’t except my sovereignty here, please find a better place to live in.
But then you really are talking about social upheaval. Let’s be realistic here. They’ll fight. You’re talking about another intifadah, a possible war?
No. No. You’re wrong, that’s not the case.
How do you know that?
Because, I know it for sure. Look, if Israel will take full control in those places they’ll be no more Hamas. Those who wish to leave, which is most of them, will leave. Those who wish to stay will be very happy because they’ll have back their individual rights. I’m talking about human rights. Something they do not have under Hamas. They won’t be throwing gays from the roof tops of Gaza anymore… Those minorities that will not except Israeli sovereignty on the land of Israel, if that will happen it means a war, a quick war. They of course will lose very fast and will have to find themselves a different place to live in. We have to make very clear who this land belongs to. The Jews or to the Arabs. Until we do that we will always be at war.
You’re describing a scenario of a binational state, which ultimately leads to an apartheid state situation.
No. Exactly the opposite. Today Arabs who live in Judea and Sumeria and especially in Gaza, lost their human rights completely. We’re talking about giving them back their human rights. Let’s be honest, they have much less human rights then before Oslo, especially under Hamas and Abbas.
You’ve been saying that Orthodoxy will determine who is a Jew in the State of Israel. Wouldn’t this exclude nearly a million Jews in North America, and have them be considered as second class Jews?
The Zehut party is talking about separation between the state and religion. All Israeli citizens will feel much more comfortable. There would be no religious coercion what so ever. But in terms of conversions, the whole concept of becoming a Jew, the only answer I can give you is, what can you do. Israelis when they do keep the Torah and traditions they do it the old way. They do it in what you call the Orthodox way. There’s democracy over here. If these millions of reform [Jews] in America will all come to Israel, it might change the situation… You can not force from America, to have Jews in the land of Israel live according to your ideals if you’re not here.
A lot of your new followers seem to follow you because you advocate for legalizing pot. Why did you decide to make this a central focus of your campaign?
I believe that being a Jew means being free. This is why I support reducing legislation in general, granting broader autonomy to the average citizen, reducing the state’s authority, annulling religious laws, shutting down the Israel Land Administration and returning state-owned lands to their rightful owners – the people of Israel… I believe in freedom, and this is why I support legalization.
If you had to smoke up, who would you do it with, Bibi or Gantz?