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Hardline politician Feiglin advocates Israeli control

| Friday, March 20, 2009

Moshe Feiglin thinks Israel's problems lie within.

The right-wing Israeli politician, who spoke Thursday night at Congregation Poale Zedeck in Squirrel Hill, said his country needs to focus on Jewish values, Jewish identity and faithful Zionism before it addresses conflicts with the Palestinians and potential problems with Iran.

"(We need to) remember who we are, build our national identity, our national pride, and, slowly but surely, build a new Jewish culture, a new and independent Jewish culture on the national level as a free society in Israel," said Feiglin, 46, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron.

Feiglin — who was arrested a decade ago for protesting the Oslo accords, which set the stage for Israeli-Palestinian talks — wants Jewish values taught in schools and used in Israeli courts. He wants Israel to assert sovereignty over all land, including territories such as Gaza, and thinks non-Jews who don't accept sovereignty should be encouraged to emigrate elsewhere.

Feiglin said Arabs living in Palestinian territories aren't interested in forming a state.

"They're not looking for national rights," he said. "They're looking to destroy the Jews, not build the Palestinians."

Mehdi Noorbaksh, an associate professor in international affairs at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, called Feiglin's position an exaggeration from the right, and said most Palestinians support a two-state solution.

"They want to have a homeland," said Noorbaksh, an Iranian-American. "They belong to that territory. They belong to that area, like anybody else."

Feiglin, who won the 20th slot in Likud Party primaries last year but was bumped down the list by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others, inspires differing views.

Hirsh Dlinn, who organized Feiglin's Pittsburgh visit, called him a belief-based politician who, unlike some Israeli leaders, seeks no power base. He compared Feiglin with former President Ronald Reagan in his focus on national pride.

"It's all basic stuff — it's basic Jewish values, Jewish nationalism, pride in Israel," said Dlinn, 56, of Squirrel Hill. "To me, Moshe Feiglin represents the hope of Israel, in terms of getting it back to where it's supposed to be."

Naftali Kaminski, an Israeli-American scientist, equated Feiglin's views with those of a Jewish supremacist and said stressing Jewish values in schools and courts is "a risk to democracy." He feels corruption among some mainstream leaders causes people to turn to politicians like Feiglin.

"I think the rise of people like Feiglin ... is a symptom of the problems Israeli democracy encounters now," said Kaminski, 49, of Squirrel Hill, who is active with groups such as the Middle East Peace Forum of Pittsburgh. "People turn to these more extreme politicians who seem to offer new, clear-cut results."

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