The Zehut party (Hebrew: זהות, "Identity") was initially nowhere to be found in the first polls of the election season. But, as the weeks passed, the party has been edging closer and closer to the electoral threshhold and gaining a foothold in the next Knesset.
"There are many right-wing parties out there, how are you different?" party leader Moshe Feiglin was asked in a recent interview. "Liberty," he responded. "I'll put it plainly: we want the whole national identity, but with that, the personal freedom of the citizen."
Moshe Feiglin may be better known for his fierce opposition to the Oslo Accords. In 1993, he and Shmuel Sackett established the protest movement Zo Artzeinu (Hebrew: זו ארצנו, "This is our land"). The movement was known to block roads and use other forms of civil disobedience against the government of Yitzhak Rabin in attempts to curb Israeli land concessions to the Arabs.
Feiglin was even arrested in one of those protests and sentenced to community service for sedition. In 1996, he established Manhigut Yehudit, which later merged with Likud in 2000. Five years later, in 2005, Manhigut Yehudit had become the largest faction within the Likud Central Committee, the body that decides Likud party policy.
Now, Feiglin returns in a new form, and in a new party - Zehut. "Israel is among the leaders in developing cannabis breeds for treating different ailments, including cancer. I saw it with my own eyes, how this is done," he said during a campaign event in Tel Aviv. "What right does the government have to tell me what to smoke or what not to smoke. Especially since it's less dangerous than the shot of whiskey I'm drinking right now. I have set legalization as a condition of joining the coalition."
Ale Yarok (Hebrew: עָלֶה יָרוֹק, lit. "Green Leaf"), the traditional pro-marijuana party that is to the left of the political spectrum, is not participating in this year's election. During the last election, they accumulated 47,000 votes. Is Feiglin trying to win them over? Are the liberals who will be casting their votes for Feiglin in service to legalization aware of his views regarding the peace process? Zehut will opt for the cancellation of the Oslo Accords and the application of full Israeli sovereignty over all parts of the country: including Gaza, the West Bank and the Temple Mount.
On other issues, Feiglin advocates for a free market economy, extreme reduction of government involvement in the affairs of its citizens, and, surprisingly, ending the religious monopoly of the Rabbinate. For Messianic Jews, this could be great news, as they would be able to marry and define themselves in their own communities, while the Rabbinate would still maintain its standards and continue to offer its services to the public.
As for who he prefers as prime minister–Netanyahu, or challenger Benny Gantz–Feiglin was noncommittal. In fact, he sees both as "strategic disasters." In the end, Feiglin's ready to sit in any government that advances the ideals of his party.
Feiglin's new book To Be a Free Jew lays out the party's vision, and has quickly become a bestseller here in Israel. With his growing popularity, Feiglin firmly believes that Zehut will be the big surprise of the upcoming election on April 9.