Members of the Likud went to the polls earlier this week to select their slate of candidates for the next Knesset. Dozens of public and not-so-public figures vied for a spot on the list, hoping to ride the party's expected electoral victory and land a much-coveted parliamentary seat.
Tens of thousands of Israelis from all walks of life cast their ballots, and the results produced quite a few surprises, with veteran ministers such as Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin failing to earn a realistic slot.
Instead, a younger band of contenders made their mark, signaling a change of generations in the venerable political movement. Forty-somethings such as Gideon Sa'ar, Gilad Erdan, Danny Danon and Yariv Levin are now among the newer and fresher faces of the ruling party.
Nonetheless, this seismic shift was all but ignored in much of the coverage of the vote. Instead, from the reactions of many observers, a person could be forgiven for thinking that Attila the Hun will be representing the Likud in the next Knesset.
The Likud, thundered Haaretz, "has become an extreme right-wing party," one in which "the top of the list is studded with settlement lobbyists, warmongers and people who undermine democracy."
Sure, Haaretz didn't explicitly use the word "fascist," but they did come pretty close.
Not surprisingly, the reaction of the Likud's rivals was fairly similar, as they all read from the same talking points, hurling invective and trying to paint the party as beyond the Israeli mainstream.
"The list that was chosen," said Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, "turns the Likud into an extreme right-wing party."
"The Likud presented an alarming list," Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party warned, saying that it "revolves around the axis of the deals of old politics and extremist ideology."
"The liberal Likud has died," lamented Meretz chairman Zahava Gal-On, reciting the secular version of the Kaddish prayer.
You get the point. It is good old-fashioned name-calling at work. Those who cannot argue inevitably choose to vilify. After all, it is much easier to call someone a fool than to make a dignified and compelling case that his views are foolish.
But let's humor the Left for a moment and consider their accusation. Is the Likud really "extreme"? This is the party that made peace with Egypt and gave up Sinai, in the process setting the precedent of bulldozing Jewish communities and expelling their residents. It was a Likud prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, who agreed to attend the 1991 Madrid Conference.
And it was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the start of his second term who endorsed the principle of a two-state solution, froze settlement construction in the territories and called for a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians.
Those are hardly the actions of an "extreme" right-wing party.
To be sure, many of the Likud's new members are less enamored with the peace process, but so is much of Israeli society. They understand that turning over territory has only brought more death and destruction, rather than reconciliation and harmony, and that Israel simply does not have a partner with whom to end the Palestinian conflict.
That is not extremism – it is realism.
Likud MK Danny Danon put it best when he said, "Is someone who loves the Land of Israel, the people of Israel and the Torah of Israel extreme?"
Indeed, the real extremism is not to be found in the Likud, which was willing to compromise its core principles for the sake of peace, but among the Left, which refuses to let go of its failed ideology even in the face of disastrous consequences.
Ever since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Left has been repeating the same mantras, assuring the Israeli public that withdrawal would bring tranquility.
Hence, Israel pulled out of Gaza in 1994, withdrew from cities in Judea and Samaria in 1995 and from Hebron in 1997, and went on to uproot Jewish communities in Gush Katif and northern Samaria in 2005.
And just what exactly did that bring us? Unprecedented Palestinian suicide bombings and terrorism in the '90s, the second intifada, rockets last week on Sderot, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, and a unilateral move by the Palestinian Authority this week to obtain UN recognition of an independent state.
Nonetheless, they continue to call for still more of the same, as if they had learned nothing from the experience of the past 20 years.
After everything Israel has been through, it is sheer folly to think that yielding more to the Palestinians will bring about a better result. When a normal person finds himself in a hole, he stops digging. But the Left continues to reach for the shovel.
To continue to adhere to an idea even in the face of prolonged, repeated and overwhelmingly fatal failure, as the Left has done, is the true definition of zealotry. It was Winston Churchill who correctly pointed out that, "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."
Looking at the two sides of Israel's political spectrum, it is fairly clear to whom that maxim applies.
The real extremists whom we need to fear are not the parliamentarians of the Likud. It is those on the Left who continue to cling to fantasy and dare to present it as policy.