The legal work has been done, the fees have been paid, and the signatures have been collected and last week it was officially approved! A new political party – founded by Moshe Feiglin, Shmuel Sackett, and a group of serious political activists – has been born in Israel called “Zehut – the Jewish Israeli Movement.”
Zehut’s mission is to build a broad social/political movement that transcends sectoral boundaries and unites Israel under the banner of Jewish identity and personal freedom, with a platform of practical solutions to key issues of concern to most Israelis.
Three of the most important issues in Israel are security, affordable housing, and parental control over their children’s’ education. Each of these areas is of great concern to the majority of Israelis, and Zehut is the only political party offering practical and comprehensive solutions to these and other major concerns.
Israel’s greatest security concerns are the external threat from Iran and its proxies and the internal Arab terrorist threat. Israel was founded on the premise of “Never Again” depending on other world powers to defend the Jewish nation. Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb and its repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map must be a wakeup call for Israel to act on its own. Israel must be viewed as a formidable foe that will deal a powerful and deadly blow to any adversary that challenges its existence. This requires recognizing Israel’s enemies and using all the technical capabilities at its disposal to make everyday life very difficult for national leaders who publicly threaten Israel’s right to exist. The credible threat of sudden death will encourage civil discourse amongst the governing heads of Israel’s enemies.
Internally, Israel has already demonstrated the ability to effectively mitigate terrorist threats within and immediately around its borders. But these stopgap measures, such as the security wall and the Iron Dome system, cannot substitute for the measures that would provide lasting and comprehensive security from the internal security threat. The charade of the Oslo peace process needs to be officially ended, and Israel needs to exert its exclusive authority over all of the areas currently under Israeli military control, including all of Judea and Samaria.
Israel also needs to act as a model of humane behavior towards the hostile Arab population within its borders. Israel needs to give these Arabs attractive choices for responding to the new reality of full Israeli sovereignty. Polls done by Bir Zeit University and by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research have consistently indicated that over 50 percent of the Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank would emigrate if given the opportunity. Israel can and should help these Arabs fulfill their desire by making their emigration prospects as attractive as possible. Israel currently pays an enormous sum of money (over 10 percent of its annual budget) to keep its civilian population safe from the internal Arab threat. Israel could divert some of these funds towards an “Emigration Basket” of benefits for emigrating Arabs, including substantial cash in their pocket. The Palestinians would be starting their new life with greater skills and far more cash than most Third World immigrants, and Israel could provide comprehensive assistance to help make the transition smooth. Those who choose to stay in Israel would need to declare their loyalty to the Jewish state. They would have the option to begin a re-education process and, in time, become full Israeli citizens.
There is a severe shortage of affordable housing in Israel. In the U.S., the median home price is about 6 times the median annual income. In Israel, the median home price is 15 times the median annual income. Israelis also pay much higher taxes and banks typically require a 30-40 percent down payment on home purchases. As a result, home ownership is an impossible dream for the vast majority of young Israelis. Rising aliyah rates and a burgeoning young population are putting even more pressure on the housing market.
Although Netanyahu and his new finance minister have made solving this problem a priority, the steps they are proposing are unlikely to provide much relief. The three steps that must be taken to successfully address the housing shortage at its roots are as follows:
- Open up Judea and Samaria to massive Jewish development. The majority of the open land suitable for development is in Judea and Samaria.
- Break up the monopoly (The Israel Lands Authority) that owns over 90 percent of the land inside the green line.
- Streamline the bureaucracy associated with buying or building a home.
Although Israel spends a higher percentage of its GDP on education than almost all other developed nations, the results are middling at best. Israeli classrooms are highly over-crowded. It’s not uncommon to have 40 or more kids in one classroom. If parents were empowered with vouchers that they could take and spend at the educational facility of their choice, we could solve the overcrowding problem, improve the quality of our children’s’ education, and return the responsibility for education back to the parents. Our people has, for 3,000 years, distinguished itself in the great care that parents give to their children’s’ education, but in Israel, control over education has largely been usurped by the state. The power of parental choice and the power of the marketplace would bring sweeping change as schools compete for voucher credits.
The Political Strategy
In the wake of the Oslo Accords and the subsequent surge in horrific terror incidents, Moshe Feiglin created a massive protest movement. Zo Artzeinu recruited over 100,000 people to execute the largest civil disobedience event in Israel’s history. In the wake of that extraordinary event in 1995, there were 10,000+ activists ready and mobilized to do whatever was needed to bring their country back to its sanity. But the political vehicle for effecting meaningful change had not yet been built.
In the intervening 20 years, every Israeli government, both from the left and the right, have operated within the Oslo paradigm. Israel now faces serious challenges – existential security challenges from Iran and a young generation frustrated by the high cost of housing – that cannot be solved from within that paradigm.
Now, a political vehicle has been created – Zehut – to change the governing paradigm and effect substantial change. In the coming months, Zehut will mount an international media campaign to share its message across the world. Yair Lapid’s meteoric rise in 2012 from zero political experience to almost gaining the prime minister’s seat is a stark example of the power of a fresh candidate with a smart media campaign to capture a substantial share of the vote. Zehut’s platform of practical solutions is far more substantial than Lapid’s vacuous promises, and can be expected to win 10+ seats in the next Knesset election. Stay tuned!
Big words- Although Israel spends a higher percentage of its GDP on education than almost all other developed nations, the results are middling at best