On October 25, 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman announced that their parties—Likud and Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) respectively—will run as a single list in the elections to the 19th Knesset on January 22, 2013 (see Israel’s Big Bang). One of the most intriguing reactions to the announcement belongs to Azriel Livnat, former senior member of the Lehi—often referred to in English as the Stern Gang—and father of Likud member Limor Livnat, the current Minister of Culture & Sport. "Maybe now the Likud will return to its roots," he said on October 30 to Channel 7, the main settlers’ main media outlet. Considering that Yisrael Beiteinu is home mainly to right-wing extremist Russian immigrants, his statement looks a bit odd. Yet, Azriel's words weren't odd, but scary.
“I hope that the two unified parties will guard the settlements and the entire Land of Israel, and that the vision of a Jewish State on both banks of the Jordan River will be fulfilled. In Israel Beiteinu is Minister Landau, whom I trust will guard the Land of Israel,” he added. With every word he uttered he made clearer how Netanyahu’s move is being analyzed by the extreme right.
Azriel and Limor Livnat During the funeral of his grandson Ben Yosef April 24, 2011
Lehi Memorial and Logo Petah Tikva
Hebrew verbs are so exact and rich in their conjugations, that Hebrew speakers and writers often pay little attention to the other words in a sentence. Azriel Livnat was inexact; Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu are not "unifying" but "reunifying." Avigdor Lieberman left the Likud (he was its Director General) due to the concessions granted by Benjamin Netanyahu to the Palestinian Authority in the Wye River Memorandum of 1997. In this document, the West Bank city of Hebron was divided into Jewish and Palestinian areas. In the following 1999 elections, Lieberman ran as leader of the newly formed Yisrael Beiteinu and won four seats. In the 2009 elections, his party won 15 seats, becoming the third largest party, after Kadima (28) and Likud (27). The party consolidated the votes of Russian immigrants, while openly endorsing the extremist ideology of the main ideologist behind Herut (the predecessor of the modern Likud Party) Ze'ev Jabotinsky. "All colonization, even the most restricted, must continue in defiance of the will of the native population," said Jabotinsky in The Iron Wall (1923); "Two Banks has the Jordan – This is ours and, that is as well," he wrote in 1929 in a poem. Both modern parties endorse his ideology. They separated for just over a decade over the tactical reasons of their leaders.
As expanded in Israel’s Big Bang, Netanyahu is gambling. In contrast to previous elections, he is now trying to consolidate the Jewish-secular vote into one main party, by offering to the electorate a wide political platform. Neither Kadima nor Labor, the other two main secular parties, can offer the same. Thus, despite his reunifying rightwards, Netanyahu may succeed in bringing Likud back to its peak size, with well over forty seats in the next Knesset. This will give Likud the freedom to rule according to its values.
"Two Banks has the Jordan – This is ours and, that is as well;" poem by Ze'ev Jabotinsky, 1929 | Jordan River connects between the Galilee Lake and the Dead Sea
“Irgun” is the favored way of referring to the Etzel in English. The latter is the Hebrew acronym for “Irgun Tzvai Leumi,” namely “National Military Organization.” It was one of the three main Jewish-militant groups during the British Mandate in Palestine. It is widely considered a terror organization, mainly due to massacres like the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22 July 22, 1946, and the Deir Yassin Massacre, on April 9, 1948. The latter was committed together with Lehi (acronym for “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel,” a 1940 Etzel spin-off), the abovementioned Stern Gang. Ze’ev Jabotinsky was one of the Etzel commanders, as was Menachem Begin. Once Israel was founded, Begin formed the Herut (Freedom) party, which in 1973 merged with the Liberals into the Likud. In 1977, he became the first right-wing Prime Minister. The most prominent member of Lehi—an organization so violent that the State of Israel was forced to grant it a formal amnesty in order to keep its members out of jail—was Yitzhak Shamir. He joined the Likud and became Israel’s Prime Minister in 1983. The Likud is inexorably linked to these two terror organizations.
Despite this introduction, the links between the modern parties and the historical terror organizations is not just historical. As stated in the first paragraph, the daughter of Azriel Livnat—a former Lehi member—is a Likud member and the current Minister of Culture & Sport. Uzi Landau is one of the few non-Russian members of Yisrael Beiteinu. He was Sharon’s Minister of Internal Security, but after a long saga lost his place in the Knesset and left the Likud in 2008. He joined Yisrael Beiteinu as Lieberman’s deputy and was elected to the Knesset in the 2009 elections. Currently, he is the Minister of Energy and Water; due to the discovery of the exuberant gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, his role became strategic. In the context of this article, he is the son of Haim Landau, a prominent Etzel member. That is why Azriel Livnat praised him. This list can be continued. The Likud is full of members from the “Mishpaha Lohemet” (the “Warring Family”), the name kept mainly for members of the Etzel and Lehi. Yisrael Beiteinu is leaner in these, but it has another asset. Ze’ev Jabotinky was Russian, as were many who belonged to the Zionist Revisionism. He had the same culture and historical background of many of Yisrael Beiteinu contemporaneous members, who find it easy to adopt Jabotinsky’s extremist ideology. Lehi, the other partner in this historical alliance, published a paper known as the "18 Principles of Rebirth," stating the basics of its ideology. The entire text is too long to analyze here, but its last point speaks of building the Third Temple in Jerusalem. None of the problematic points mentioned here has been ever rejected by the Likud or Yisrael Beiteinu.
An ecstatic Livnat added “I oppose settlement blocks, on the contrary, I support the entire Land of Israel. The settlement freeze was an error of the current government. I also oppose the idea of two countries for two people.” In other words, he repeated Jabotinsky’s ideology, without changes. He and the settlers see this reunification of the Likud as a return to the party’s historical values. The annexation of Jordan and the eviction of all Palestinians from their homes may soon become the formal policies of an even more extremist Israel.