The ongoing conflict is not about land, says Shmuel Sackett of Manhigut Yehudit, the Jewish Leadership Movement, exemplified by numerous Palestinian references to the entirely of historic Palestine. “The war today is not over land as it used to be, it’s a religious war,” said Sackett, who made aliyah from Kew Gardens Hills in 1990, settling in Karnei Shomron. In 1998, he teamed up with activist Moshe Feiglin in creating Manhigut, a religious nationalist faction within the Likud Party. Speaking in his old neighborhood on Aug. 1, Sackett described his faction as a “real and viable plan” to the seemingly inevitable Palestinian state.
Sackett listed off Israel’s internal problems, its housing crisis, inability to rescue Gilad Shalit, negative world opinion, and an leadership too willing to acquiesce to political pressure, as all stemming from a lack of Jewish leadership. In Manhigut Yehudit’s terminology, this type of leadership is more than having means having Jewish leaders at the helm of the country, but leaders that embody a strong Jewish identity. “It’s not Obama… not CNN, Jimmy Carter, The New York Times, the UN that are to blame for Israel’s situation,” Sackett said.
“Old time Israeli politicians knew Tanach cold,” Sackett reminded the nearly 40 listeners emphatically, implying that this infused their decisions and world outlook. “Today’s young Israeli identifies Jewishly.” Sackett cited a recent Yediot Ahronot poll where 65 percent of Israelis want to see the Beit Hamikdash rebuilt in their lifetimes. “Our leaders still think the fight is over land – the Israeli leadership doesn’t have the tools to fight a religious war”
The “viable plan” presented by Manhigut Yehudit , which it admits is their ongoing mission statement, is a return to what it calls “Faith-Based Leadership” as a way to rectify Israel’s problems. “98 percent of the problems in Israel today are due to the lack of strong, vibrant, Jewish leadership based on authentic Jewish values,” Sackett said. “Proud Jews don’t run away from their identity,” he stressed. When you’re proud, the world respects you. Since Oslo was signed in 1993, “we’ve done everything the world asked of the Jewish State, and they hate us,” Sackett told the audience. “When a Jew runs away from his identity there’s anti-Semitism.” The world is forcing a Palestinian state because there’s a lack of Jewish pride and Sackett, Feiglin, and their thousands of supporters are convinced that a strong, proud Jewish leadership would mitigate or eliminate plans for a Palestinian state.
Manhigut Yehudit hopes that Moshe Feiglin will one day soon become Prime Minister. Sackett shared a story of how in the earlier years as they were teaming up to start the movement, Feiglin offered him stake in a future position as something akin to Foreign Minister, but reconfigured as Diaspora Minister – charged with encouraging Jews to make aliyah (“NBN times 1000,” quips Sackett), or educating them in their places of residency.
The organization joined as a group within the Likud party in 2000. When Feiglin ran for head of the Likud in 2003, he attracted 3 percent of the vote, but in 2007, the last elections, he achieved nearly 24 percent. Manhigut Yehudit is now the largest group within the Likud Central Committee and able to exert influence on Likud policy. Their goal is for Feiglin to rise to a top leadership position within the Likud, which Sackett calls an “incubator for leadership in Israel.” Their decision to join the Likud was strategic. “If you come from the national camp and want to be the Prime Minister, you must first rise to a leadership position within Likud.”
With internal Likud elections to be held on Jan. 31 next year- their biggest elections since 1985, with 172 local branches of Likud electing a total of 7,900 delegates on the national and local levels - Manhigut Yehudit is working hard to strengthen their representation. They’re embarking on an educational and outreach effort in 90 or so branches across the country where they feel they can gain more seats, and where their message will be best received. Stronger Manhigut Yehudit entrenchment at the local levels of Likud will have significant ramifications, and Sackett mentions Ashkelon, Jerusalem, Netanya, Haifa and Rishon LeZion as areas of interest. “This is an amazing opportunity to influence Israel’s leadership party for the next 25 years!”
Judah S. Harris is a photographer, filmmaker, speaker and writer. He publishes a popular email newsletter that circulates to thousands of readers. Sign up at www.judahsharris.com/visit