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Ex-Likud minister Ayoub Kara also announces political return

Far-right ex-MK Feiglin dips feet back into Likud after failed solo Knesset run

Politician’s quasi-libertarian, pro-pot, nationalist party failed to enter Knesset in 2019 despite high expectations; will try again with party that previously pushed him out

Moshe Feiglin attends a Health Committee meeting at the Knesset, on November 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Moshe Feiglin attends a Health Committee meeting at the Knesset, on November 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A former MK known both for his extreme-right politics and for his efforts to legalize cannabis announced Sunday that he would return to Likud and seek a spot on its electoral slate after failing to enter Knesset with a party of his own.

In a statement, Moshe Feiglin said he was running in the Likud primaries — expected in mid-August — to ensure Israel remains “a Jewish majority state.”

Feiglin represented then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party in the Knesset between 2013 and 2015, but was pushed out for his maverick attitude and extreme positions, eventually forming the right-wing libertarian Zehut party.

In a statement, Feiglin claimed that Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s decision to form an ideologically diverse coalition that included the Islamist Ra’am party had turned Israel into an “state of all its Arabs.”

“When the extent of the disaster became clear, I decided that the time had come to unite forces, and precisely in this difficult time to return to Likud, to strengthen the Jewish majority and return our Jewish state to us,” Feiglin said.

In a Trumpian flourish, he described the uncontested results of the last election as “the biggest election fraud in our history.”

Zehut was touted as the Cinderella of the April 2019 election but ended up failing to win enough support to enter the Knesset and essentially withdrew from national politics. It said it would continue operating and promoting its agenda outside the political arena.

The party combined far-right nationalism with small-government libertarianism, and drew support from an eclectic mix of voters ranging from far-right settlement yeshiva students to marijuana legalization advocates in left-leaning Tel Aviv.

It advocated annexing the West Bank and retaking Gaza, the virtual dismantling of the state rabbinate and other Orthodox-controlled state religious services, and the total legalization of pot, including for recreational use.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Feiglin repeatedly expressed anti-vaccination views during Knesset Health Committee meetings he was still allowed to attend as a former MK. He has also participated in anti-vax protests and is considered a popular figure among activists in Israel.

Feiglin has attempted to downplay his past as an ultra-nationalist activist, which included calls to rebuild the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

“For many years I have been fighting for the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, I have fought the High Court and the extreme left, I have fought for the sovereignty of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and I promise all Likud voters that I will never abandon these struggles,” Feiglin said in his Sunday statement.

Days before the April 2019 election, Feiglin went on an online comedic interview show during which he drank whisky, engaged in mutual foot-slapping with the host and ended with a slow dance.

Zehut party chairman Moshe Feiglin and activists at a party event in Tel Aviv, on August 27, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Also Sunday, former Likud minister Ayoub Kara announced he was making a political comeback.

“I acceded to many Likud party members and decided to compete in the primaries in order to return to being part of the leadership of the party and the national camp,” Kara wrote on his Facebook page.

Kara said he was returning to politics due to “the difficult situation in which the State of Israel finds itself… even though what I’m doing today in the whole world and countries of the region is good for me.”

He also touted his fealty to Netanyahu.

“We need people loyal to Likud in deeds, not in words or declarations,” he said.

Kara, who in in 2017 became the first Israeli minister from the minority Druze community, has served in the Knesset for Likud on and off since 1999. Though a longtime Netanyahu loyalist, he lost the then-prime minister’s backing before party primaries in early 2019 for unclear reasons and was last a MK from December 2020 to June 2021, when he entered the Knesset after another Likud lawmaker’s resignation.

Over the years, Kara has been active in interfaith activities and in improving Israeli relations with many countries, as well as with Druze communities in Lebanon and Syria and Iraqi Kurds, but has also been involved in a series of sometimes bizarre diplomatic snafus.

Then-Communications Minister Ayoub Kara at a press conference in the northern city of Safed, July 10, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Following the collapse of former prime minister Naftali Bennett’s disparate ruling coalition, the Knesset voted to disperse on Thursday, with Yair Lapid becoming Israel’s 14th premier on Friday. Israel will hold elections on November 1.

Recent polls have suggested Netanyahu is better placed than he was in the last elections.

Whereas Netanyahu and his allies (Likud, Religious Zionism, Shas and United Torah Judaism) won 52 seats in the March 2021 elections that led to the Bennett-Lapid coalition, more recent polls have shown the Netanyahu-led bloc now rising to 58-60 seats in the 120-member house, on the cusp of a majority. Together with the Yamina party — now led by Ayelet Shaked rather than Bennett — Netanyahu could clinch a majority for a narrow, right-wing coalition.

However, current political alliances may shift, parties could merge or drop out of the race, and new parties could join it. Furthermore, several parties are polling close to the 3.25% threshold for Knesset representation and may fail to pass it, potentially jumbling the political math.

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