The last polls show that 30 days before elections, the ZEHUT party succeeds in uniting supporters from many sectors, and almost succeeds in passing the voting threshold. Side by side with rightist motifs (“There is no Palestinian nation”), the Chairman of the party enjoys support from young people who rely on his support for the use of cannabis. “We have to live in a free state,” they explain.
By: Inbar Toizer and Yuval Karni
Chairman of the ZEHUT party Moshe Feiglin hopes to be the surprise of the elections. In a number of recently published polls, he is even past the election threshold.
Even before the ZEHUT party became a player in the last polls to be publicized – Feiglin said that his party would pass the threshold and would be “the surprise of the elections,” in his words.
In the last polls published in the newspapers and other media, it turns out that ZEHUT is past the threshold or very close to it. In the last poll of Yediot Aharonot, as well, the party gets 3.1% of the votes, which borders on entry to the Knesset with 4 mandates.
How do we explain Feiglin’s forward thrust? Estimates are that Feiglin’s voters also come from the Left and “Green Leaf” (cannabis party) voters, who see Feiglin as the standard-bearer of soft drug use. Feiglin himself conducted a long struggle for legalization of soft drugs even before he decided to run for the Knesset with the ZEHUT party. Since the Green Leaf party is not running this time for the Knesset, some of its voters have decided to support Feiglin.
It seems, however, that Feiglin is disturbed by the image that this has created and on Friday he tweeted: “I thought that you know who I am from my opposition to Oslo, from when I voted against the state budget because of the release of terrorists, from when I voted for the Litzman Bill, which would have prevented negotiations over Jerusalem – when the entire coalition fled to the cafeteria – and from my struggle for the Temple Mount,” Feiglin wrote. “Some of you remember, but for those of you who have forgotten – perhaps we should remind you, as we see the meteoric rise of the ZEHUT party in the polls.”
The party, which lays out its doctrine on a platform of over 300 pages, is a liberal party that believes in the value of liberty alongside safeguarding Jewish identity and application of full sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel. Over the last weeks, it has gained momentum in social media and has become popular, particularly amongst young people, partly because of its decision to wave the flag of cannabis legalization, led by number 18 in the party, comedian Idan Mor (Gadi Wilchersky).
Feiglin, resident of the settlement Karnei Shomron, was at the forefront of the protests against the Oslo Accords, was an MK of the Likud and even ran against Netanyahu for leadership of the party. He testifies at the beginning of his platform that he believes in and desires the building of the Third Temple, the application of full sovereignty on the Temple Mount and claims that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation.”
Part of the funding for the party has been provided by crowdfunding, which until now has brought in approximately half a million shekels contributed by nearly 2000 donors. Party officials claim that this number is high as compared to other parties, in which the average donation per person is a few hundred shekels, while the average for ZEHUT is 240 NIS. This support is also expressed in Google searches for ZEHUT. In February 2019, there were over 71,000 searches for the party, as opposed to 39,000 searches in January 2019 and less than 13,000 searches in December 2018 and the months that preceded it.
Amit Mizrachi, 29, from Givatayim, a voter for the party, told Yediot Aharonot, “I became interested in Feiglin’s ideas when he was still in the Likud, but I couldn’t vote for him then, because I didn’t support Netanyahu. I am very active in social media and what is happening here is unreal. At the beginning of the campaign, we felt that the media were hiding us in the polls. So we decided to advertise with Facebook. Our activists are so enthusiastic. People have turned ZEHUT into their second job.”
Shirel Lalom, 18 from the settlement of Psagot, said, “I saw the link to the party platform on Facebook and I read it with tears in my eyes. From a young age, I have been very disturbed by things that a girl my age shouldn’t have to think about, and I am afraid of terror attacks every time that I ride the bus. Suddenly someone comes and explains very clearly and in detail how to solve this problem by applying sovereignty in the entire Land of Israel, with deep plans for paving highways and additional steps that will be taken to solve the problem by means of detailed plans.”
“This is a movement that is not just one person or a marketing agency,” Lalom added. It is many people who believe in an idea, and that is something that can happen only when you choose one idea – liberty – and run with it. ZEHUT includes atheists, religious and people from the entire political spectrum who believe that we have to live here with more freedom.”
Some claim that the party’s decision to focus on support for legalization stems from its desire to attract young voters. Meir Kadosh, father of a young boy with a rare form of epilepsy, who swallowed a bottle of cannabis drops at a Knesset committee meeting on legalization, testifies that Feiglin contacted him about a year ago: “After I swallowed the cannabis in the Knesset, Moshe Feiglin contacted me and said that he wants to meet me. I didn’t know of him before that, and previously I had voted for the Green Leaf party. I am not rightist at all. I believe that all people are equal. But I support Moshe because this is the first time that I feel that the person talking to me is talking straight and is not just another politician.”
Dory Orpaly, a ZEHUT voter who works in agriculture in the Aravah, said: “I feel that I can rely on Feiglin. He is a politician who levels with me and he has a detailed plan for everything. I think that combing it with Judaism is a winning combination of two values. ZEHUT is running for the first time and in order to get it into the public eye, it is best to use social media.”
Golan Yed’i, is from Kibbutz Lavi and he plans to vote for ZEHUT: “Legalization was a significant part of my decision to vote for him. It can only do good for the country. But it is not just the legalization. I believe in the other issues that he speaks about. His diplomatic solution is interesting. He is a person worth listening to. I believe he wants the best for us and that this is the right way to achieve happiness.”