The Israeli political spectrum settled down before the elections. In a long-overdue development, the Labor Party is dead, which is nice, really. That political entity had long outlived itself. Its socialist economic policies, though increasingly followed in the West, have been discredited in the East, including the Middle East. Labor’s original political platform—settling the land, expelling the Arabs, crushing our enemies—long ago became the ultra-right’s domain. Trying to differentiate itself from the right and pandering to its assimilated sponsors, Labor became indistinguishable from the far-left Meretz. That party, originally a communist outfit, has embraced some market rhetoric; indeed, its long-time chieftain Beilin retired recently to go into business. In its turn, Meretz aligned itself with the ultra-left Peace Now, a pariah organization even among the Israeli left.

Kadima is an ad hoc Likud spin-off. Sharon created it for the sole purpose of pushing the Gush Katif eviction through the Knesset. Kadima lacked an ideology of its own, and following Sharon’s push to the left, it drifts in the same direction. The political objectives of Peace Now, Meretz, Labor, and Kadima are similar: a piece of paper from the Arabs with the word “peace” printed on it for the price of the Lake Kineret, the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria, and Jerusalem. Theoretically, Peace Now asks for the demolition of all Jewish presence in the territories while Kadima wants some to remain. In practice, the difference is non-essential: as Qurei revealed, the Kadima government has already accepted the withdrawal plan, which would uproot half the settlements in terms of population (250,000 Jews and 40,000 Arabs live in 56 percent of Judea and Samaria. The obvious solution is to relocate the Arabs and annex the 56 percent. The Israeli government prefers to evict the Jews and abandon the land). The Palestinians are pressing for a still broader withdrawal, which the Kadima government is accepting step-by-step. In nationalistic or religious terms, there is no difference between uprooting 150,000 (Kadima) and 250,000 (Meretz) Jews, and abandoning, respectively, 93 or 100 percent of Judea and Samaria.

The democratic process further facilitates the Left’s convergence. Parties seek political dominance for its own sake rather than to reach any particular goals. Their donors need benefits from the government, local activists want official positions, and chiefs crave international recognition. Goals, if there were any in the first place, get sacrificed in the run-up to elections. In order to get more votes, parties blur their agendas to make them acceptable to the widest possible audience. Kadima’s political poles include Olmert’s ultra-left statement that Israel would have to withdraw from everywhere—including East Jerusalem—and Livni’s right-wing statement that Israeli Arabs would have to move into the Palestinian state as a condition of its creation.

Likud acts the same way. The ostensibly right-wing party has always been a refuge for demagogues. Except for Oslo, all Israeli capitulations are the Right’s work: Sinai, Madrid, Hebron, and Gaza. Even Oslo was accomplished by Rabin, a right-winger among the Left. Explanation of this phenomenon is best left to clinical psychiatrists; probably it has to do with the Right’s sense of persecution and insecurity, which stem from permanent opposition to the establishment and to international anti-Semitism, and from a peculiar sense of righteousness which demands generosity toward enemies. Be that as it may, Netanyahu’s agenda is perfectly leftist: he is for the peace process, and thus for concessions to Palestinians, thus for evicting Jewish villagers and abandoning the Temple Mount, since the Arabs would accept nothing less—that is, unless Israel bombed them out of any position to accept or reject anything. In a sense, Netanyahu is more pro-Arab than Peace Now; unlike the leftists, he insists on massive economic aid to Palestinians. According to his logic, affluent Palestinians would abandon terrorism. That’s nonsense for two reasons: No amount of aid would make backward Arabs affluent. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates, and Qatar need no one’s aid, but their Arab population is as backward as camels. Also, affluent Arabs are still quite hostile to Israel. Kuwait, a mega-rich American client, hosted the PLO; Qatar is a home to radical Islamist organizations; Saudi Arabia is a premier sponsor of Islamic terrorists. If Netanyahu imagines he can make 90 percent of the Palestinians affluent, the remaining 10 percent—200,000 Arabs—are more than enough to man any terrorist enterprise, and economic discontent would prop up their political-terrorist aspirations.

The only position which makes Likud slightly preferable to Meretz is Netanyahu’s insistence on balancing Israeli concessions with Palestinian security measures. Netanyahu, however, didn’t practice what he stood for; he gave away Hebron and much of Judea and Samaria while terrorism was high. A politician who abandoned Hebron clearly would have still fewer qualms about abandoning Ariel. Netanyahu’s balancing approach is a non-starter: Israel agrees to concessions only because of Palestinian terrorism, and public support for withdrawal soars after major terrorist attacks. Jewish defeatism is not unique: Britain abandoned the same land (and also India, Ireland—you name it) under the squall of terror. Palestinians are not stupid enough to cease terrorism before they get a state.

Likud’s squabble with Feiglin also indicates how far to the left the party has really gone. Netanyahu and his cohorts have personal reasons to resist Feiglin’s encroachment, which would deprive them of their positions, but what about the scores of rank-and-file Likud activists who also oppose him? The polls show that Feiglin’s promotion to a realistic slot in Likud’s list slightly improved the party’s popularity, but most activists choose to believe that Feglin is bad for Likud. Their implicit reasoning is this: Feiglin would change Likud’s outlook significantly, and they prefer “their” Likud to the other man’s party, even if it’s genuinely right-wing.

There is huge difference between a Likud with Feiglin in the twentieth spot and one with Feiglin in the first. A reputable right-wing MK is a plus for the party, but an anti-establishment right-winger at the top would drive away many of Likud’s voters. Arguably, Feiglin at the top of Likud could bring in the right-wing voters scattered among the politically amorphous religious parties. Whatever the case, Feiglin barely made it onto Likud’s list and won’t top it in the current elections, and probably not in subsequent ones either. His wisdom in subverting Likud is questionable: on one hand, a systemic MK, one of the Likud crowd, is really more valuable than one from a small party. On other hand, running in his own party, flanked by right-wingers from other streams, Feiglin can consolidate a serious number of seats. In the current elections, though, this discourse is purely theoretical.

Lieberman is not as bad as he sounds. A demagogue supported by financial crooks, he nevertheless has a decent history of opposing leftist measures. On this, at least, he’s more consistent than Netanyahu, who supported Sharon’s government almost to the day of the Gush Katif eviction. Also to his credit, Lieberman resists Russian overtures to bring him closer to the Kremlin.

Shas and UTJ have fixed audiences who will vote for them no matter what. For now, they oppose relinquishing East Jerusalem, but would probably relent if offered enough subsidies for their constituency, just as they did in Gush Katif. The hypocrites who put up with de facto Palestinian occupation of the Temple Mount will find a way to soothe their consciences over de jure Palestinian occupation of Jerusalem. And don’t forget, both Shas and UTJ accept giving away Judea and Samaria.

It follows that any government will continue the defeatist agenda. The best we could do in the current elections would be to turn the Knesset into a platform for some really right-wing views. To be sure, the right-wing equivalent of Peace Now is not only banned from the Knesset but has been made illegal. At least center-right figures can enter the Knesset. This would give the conservative views increased visibility and enhance their reputation; views spoken from the Knesset are for some reason deemed more authoritative. In the best-case scenario, the real right-wingers could serve as the Knesset’s gadflies and perhaps even slow the capitulation.

There is no such right-wing party among the established ones. Nor is one needed. In small Israeli society, new parties quickly make space for themselves and on many occasions have garnered decent Knesset representation. Who is this right alternative? Meet the “Our Land of Israel” (meaning, “not their land”) party of Dov Wolpe and Baruch Marzel, the last men standing. In this country with no right-wing politicians, voting for those odd men might be the best choice. At least they are honest men—a trait impossible to find in this Knesset. Marzel, a long-time assistant of Rabbi Meir Kahane, is a linchpin of the Hebron Jewish community, the man behind myriad right-wing projects and incidents; a man whose impeccable reputation and authority will no doubt justify every vote cast for him. Rabbi Dov Wolpe, a maverick Chabadnik with the Rebbe’s unique blessing to live in poverty and help the people of Israel, fully lives up to his reputation. The man behind the call for Chabadniks to heed the Rebbe’s instruction, “A Palestinian state is a danger to Jews,” a propagandist who encouraged IDF soldiers to refuse their criminal orders for the eviction of Jewish families, Wolpe represents the best type of fiercely Zionist Chabadnik.
Marzel and Wolpe won’t change anything in Israeli politics, nor would anyone else. But Marzel and Wolpe will get you the best bang for your vote.

Does not voting for Marzel-Wolpe split the right-wing camp, causing a number of votes to fall down in between the parties as the tallies are rounded to the Knesset seats? A small effect like that will take place, but it has already been started by other right-wing parties. Religious Zionists squabbled over their four to six seats, and Moledet split out from the Jewish Home bloc. Ultra-Orthodox parties failed to unite despite the inessential nature of their differences. On the secular right, Likud and Israel Our Home compete fiercely, and lose their disgruntled voters to Kadima.

If Kadima is on its way back to the top, it can form the government with ultra-leftists, supported by Arab parties in the Knesset. An invasion of Gaza or an attack on Iran shortly before the elections can further boost Kadima ratings. [This article was written before the Gaza operation.] Media continually slander the Right camp’s pitiful leader, Netanyahu, which cannot fail to take a toll on his voter-support. Fake polls predicting a victory for the left are another powerful tool in dissuading the right-wingers from voting. Polls usually fail to account for lower turnout among right-wing voters; they support Netanyahu at the polls but not at the booths. Arabs have a much higher turnout.
If the polls lie, then the right-wing parties gain a majority, and risking two percent of conservative votes to support Marzel-Wolpe is a moderate gamble.

The right can win the election but lose the government. In the scenario in which right-wing and religious parties gain the Knesset majority but Kadima earns the most votes, Livni will be forming a government. Theoretically, Shas should refuse her invitation so that if she fails, Likud can proceed with forming a government instead. In practice, Shas realizes its strong bargaining power and would support Livni in return for massive subsidies to haredim. Presumably, Livni is willing to offer them more welfare than economically conservative Netanyahu. In the economic crisis, when donations to non-working haredim dwindled, Shas would go to great lengths of betrayal for money.

In a sense, we might prefer Likud to fail. A Likud government would continue the peace process just like Kadima does—witness the Wye River and Hebron agreements. But Likud in opposition would jealously carp at Kadima for every concession it made to the Arabs, and build a Knesset coalition against the withdrawals.

Whether the Left or the fake Right wins, we need the most honest, straightforward, and vociferous right-wingers in the Knesset. Weighed against the fake right-wingers of every stripe who subscribe to Israeli capitulation on these or those terms, Marzel and Wolpe offer a refreshing alternative.

HaBait HaYehudi is another good choice, and if you lean toward the mainstream, Lieberman is better than the others.