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Does Israel Need Another New Political Party?

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By Moshe Phillips - December 22, 2008

On December 8, 2008 it was announced in Israel that Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, a newcomer to party politics, will be leading a new party called HaBayit HaYehudi ("The Jewish Home"). HaBayit HaYehudi was originally an amalgamation of several older right leaning parties that have been in decline for several years. Since Hershkowitz was named, the party has continued to hemorrhage from the loss of members, supporters and even those organizations that created it.

The next elections in Israel will be the most important in Israel's history. There are two competing visions for the future of Israel. One vision maintains that Israel keep control over the West Bank and one does not. The HaBayit HaYehudi Party, which one can assume will advocate keeping the territories, will participate in the next Israeli elections for the first time. When it was announced that the HaBayit HaYehudi Party had been formed many on the Israeli Right, and their supporters in the U.S., asked if the Israeli Right really needed yet another political party. Was HaBayit HaYehudi really just old wine in a new bottle?

At a time when Israelis are searching for leaders who can work together to meet the challenges the Jewish State faces, it's time for the Israeli Right to acknowledge that their established parties have failed. The Nationalist Camp has not found common ground with the Israeli electorate and has again and again failed to define a way forward that could bring Israelis together to be stronger and better prepared for the future.

The Israeli Right has a problem. It knows that practically speaking Israel must retain Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, in order to have the strategic depth it needs to repel a ground attack. Put another way, without the territories Israel returns to a border that was just nine miles wide at the strategic center of the nation near Netanya and not much wider at Tel Aviv. These were the borders Israel had from 1948 until 1967 and which the dove Abba Eban labeled "Auschwitz borders".

The Right also knows that there is a dramatically escalating hostile Islamic population within this historically and religiously intrinsic Jewish area. And further, world pressure and common sense say Israel cannot and should not rule over these people in perpetuity. The Israeli Right has a vision problem.

The Israeli Left has reacted to the above realities by erecting a security fence and supporting the creation of a Palestinian State. This new Islamic state will be responsible for, it is argued, eliminating terrorist attacks on Israel that originate from within its borders.

The Left's plans have been proven over history not to work. The Maginot Line and Israel's own Bar Lev Line should be enough historical evidence to demonstrate that networks of defensive fortifications cannot work effectively in a real war.

To place faith in any Palestinian government to act as a proxy for Israel's security is so absurd that it simply must be labeled by sane individuals as criminal negligence or sheer lunacy.

Why has the Israeli Left had such success until now? They have presented a clear vision. It was a vision that was totally disconnected from reality, but it was a clear vision.

Why was the Nationalist camp floundering?

The parties on Israel's right must be asked what their plans are and what their vision is. Other than "Voluntary Transfer" and/or some type of an unworkable autonomy that falls short of a state and may include Jordan, the questions are hard to answer.

All segments of the Nationalist camp want a future where Jewish settlements grow and can prosper with security. But because of the Arab population in the territories to most Israelis this is a non-starter. Everyone on the Right wants to see the IDF respond swiftly and severely to rioting and terrorist attacks. Targeting killings are something few on the Right oppose. But, this is not a plan. Targeted killings are a tactic. There is a difference between tactics and strategy. The Israeli Right needs a strategic plan.

Jerusalem is at risk. The entire Zionist enterprise is at stake. The Israeli Right simply must step up its game. Stating that Judea and Samaria are lands deeded to the Jewish People by G-d as delineated in the Bible and settling the land is just part of an answer. There must be more.

HaBayit HaYehudi may or may not succeed in their effort to build a viable party comprised of religious leaning right-wing nationalists as seems to be their goal. But building a new political party is not a vision for Israel's future. It is a vision for a new party.

But whether a new right wing Israeli party is needed or even whether the Nationalist Camp succeeds or fails in the next election is far less important than the fact that it is not a new party that is needed but a new vision and a new plan. The Israeli Right must change the situation by reinventing itself and developing innovative solutions to Israel's problems and then act in a dynamic manner that shifts the paradigm.

If the HaBayit HaYehudi Party wants to be successful it needs to be a purposeful movement. If it is to thrive, HaBayit HaYehudi must articulate its position clearly and comprehensively, and prevail over lesser vehicles, motivated by good intentions perhaps, but which will not make real change happen. In short, HaBayit HaYehudi must set the agenda and not allow its agenda to be set by the emergency of the moment.

Does Israel need another new political party? Only if that party has a vision that will inspire Israel's masses and articulate a plan to make that vision a reality. If HaBayit HaYehudi is that party it is deserving of support if not…

Moshe Phillips is a member of the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans For a Safe Israel - AFSI. The chapter's website is at: and Moshe's blog can be found at

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