From Jabotinsky’s Articles to Netanyahu: The Legacy of Revisionist Zionism and Likud's Impact on Israeli Politics
Threat Against “Sole Democracy”
2023 marked the outbreak of massive protest and civilian discontent with the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu who has been prime minister of Israel for over 15 years. His attempts to reform legislative policies in his country lead to increased opposition from liberal and center political parties in Israel who fear a growing tendency towards more radical pushes for power centralization.
His party’s policies have shaped much of Israel’s modern history and have provoked many historians and political scientists to revise his party’s origins, the Likud.
Policies that have culminated in several events that have been printed into much of world history, from the arab-israeli wars, to the multiple violations of human rights directly involving the Israeli government and its Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
These events, alongside an early study of Israeli history, have compelled many researchers and historians to revise the political platform of much of Israel’s right wing factions, and the connection goes far even beyond the establishment of Israel, to the writings of an active and vigilant young Jewish intellectual.
Ze'ev Jabotinsky, born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky, was a Jewish leader and author who worked as a journalist and orator. Being one of the early people to support the establishment of a Jewish state, Jabotinsky became well aware of the impact of Zionism, that is the political movement supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and sought to expand it into an irredentist and much stronger current within the movement known as Revisionist Zionism.
This particular kind of Zionism, led by Jabotisnky, challenged the much more moderate and mainstream Zionism that had a strong emphasis on diplomacy.
And this separatism event extended beyond some simple ideological beliefs such as giving emphasis on a strong military or border expansion, even to an extreme sense, the deportation of the Arab population.
The fact that Jabotinsky founded the Irgun, a Revisionist Zionist paramilitary militia, to challenge the much more moderate Haganah, further accelerated this clear cut division. Particularly, that they were responsible for violent acts against Britain and also the Palestinian Arab population.
In politics, Jabotisnky helped found a traditionally strong opposition keen to dramatically oppose the Israeli establishment. From the 1940s onwards to the massive success of Likud party in 1977, the Israeli right became dominant and slowly asserted much of the support of the population, mainly the eastern Mizrahi influx which party members helped dominate their opinion for much of israeli politics for their conservative origins and stances.
Modern Day Israel
Nowadays, Israeli right is synonymous with small government, more economic freedom, transition from diplomacy to a firm stance on security and military issues, and a support for settler rights who have been building illegal settlements in the west bank. The international community considers this an illegal act that undermines the peace process.
All the while, the massive protests signify an alerting social and political awareness to remember the impulsive and politically extremist origins of Benjamin Netanyaho.
Likud was founded on the pretext that Israel had better have a governing body responsible for expansionism in the form of settlement, and a firm stance against Arab countries for security and military conquest. The fact that such rhetoric was written almost 70 years ago in the radical newspaper pieces of Jabotinsky, proves the long and historical inspiration that modern right wing parties derive from which leads to massive nationalism and polarization that lead to such discontent.
All the while, many gather to oppose such policies, and wish to remind the international community of the moderate stance of most of society in Israel, but, as Jabotisnky so proudly recommends in his famous ‘Iron Wall’ article:
“Zionist colonization must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.”