Moshe Feiglin, whose failed political campaign was the biggest surprise of the 2019 Israeli election, will have an impact past this election cycle.  In the weeks before the April 9th election, the majority of polls showed his upstart party capturing 4-8 seats in the next Knesset. While Feiglin fell below the minimum amount of votes necessary to join the Knesset, he followed the lessons of Ron Paul to capture the attention of the Israeli press and altered the political discourse in Israel.

Moshe Feiglin seems to have molded part of his platform and campaign tactics on those of Ron Paul.  Paul is a former Congressman from Texas who made three failed runs for the Presidency. Paul was dismissed as an extreme candidate but his libertarian policies appealed to voters far beyond his Republican base.  He was well known for his support of free markets, individual freedoms and even the legalization of marijuana. Ron Paul built a huge and rabid online following. Even though the social media networks were still in their infancy during his earlier Presidential campaigns, Paul created a virtual army that allowed him to exponentially amplify his messaging and reach.

Feiglin has long been dismissed as an extreme right candidate who was banished to the Likud back benches and eventually left the party.  Since founding his Zehut ( Identity in English) party and by espousing libertarian policies, Feiglin built a following that crossed the diverse Israeli political spectrum. Feiglin’s army of online supporters, including a popular Israeli rapper and comedian with huge online followings of their own, advanced his candidacy on social media with endless clips and memes.

Feiglin adopted policy positions that attracted voters that would have never been expected to vote for a candidate who is considered to be from the extreme right. He proudly pointed to the support he received from voters who previously backed the left wing Meretz and Labor parties. Feiglin attracted almost 120,000 voters based on his vision of individual freedom and economic reform. His recent 340 page book, which explains his political platform in depth, is a best seller.  

As Feiglin rode the wave of his new found media popularity, he was never considered to be a candidate for Prime Minister and his party would have been one of the smaller parties in the Knesset.  Ron Paul was not seen as a serious candidate for President outside of his loyal following, yet he effectively changed the issues and tenor of the Republican primary debates. Despite being dismissed as a fringe candidate, Paul was able to alter the course of the Republican platform on issues such as taxes and the role of government.  Paul’s impact was felt long after his Presidential campaigns ended because the issues that he championed have been carried forward by his son Senator Rand Paul and other Congressmen.

Feiglin’s gained notoriety by championing marijuana legalization. It was subsequently adopted by most of the other political parties and may turn into real legislative results.  His messages of individual freedom and free market economy will continue to resonate with Israeli voters. Security is the highest priority for Israeli voters but there are growing calls for changes in the social and economic fabric of the country.

Feiglin’s campaign failed in terms of mandates and political power for his Zehut Party in the 2019 elections, but Feiglin is not deterred, In his post election message, Feiglin promised to carry on his “freedom revolution” – a term often used by Ron Paul.

At only 56 years old and with a massive boost in recognition from his recent campaign, we can expect to hear more from Moshe Feiglin. However, given that Israeli parties depend heavily on identity politics and historic bases of support, Feiglin may never achieve political prominence. Feiglin has fallen into the trap that is common in Israeli politics. Instead of creating dynamic political parties that transcend the leader of the party, they create an entire structure around a popular or charismatic individual. These parties routinely fail and fall off the political map. If Moshe Feiglin wants to be more than another failed candidate, he will need to convince others serious leaders to embrace his vision and create a Ron Paul-esque movement that is larger than just Moshe Feiglin.