Yisrael Medad writes a weekly media column for the Jerusalem Post and serves as a foreign press spokesperson for the Yesha Council of Jewish communities. In this reply to Revital Amiran’s argument in Fathom that a radical, egalitarian left promoting the two-state solution can win, if not today then in the future, Medad argues that Amiran denies the harsh reality, which is that the Left is now viewed, in the eyes of the majority of the voting public, as outside the Jewish political consensus in Israel.
If Israel’s Left ‘embraces a liberal, secular, anti-racist agenda, advances social democratic economics, and proposes a two-state solution with security, it may yet claim the future’ concluded Revital Amiran in Fathom. She added, confidently, that ‘the agenda of the left remains resilient because it is still in line with the aspirations of most Israelis.’
Both assertions deny reality.
The Left has been suffering a decline in its parliamentary representation for decades and it now has very little influence in government. If it weren’t for its leading role in the cultural and literary fields, and in the media, its voice would be entirely negligible. Moreover, this outcome has been produced by the Left embracing the policies Amiran suggests.
As for a ‘two-state solution with security’ (which I would posit is a contradiction in terms) that has been the (failed) policy of all governments, in one form or another, both pre- and post-Oslo. Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as making a 2009 speech in which he acknowledged a ‘demilitarised Palestinian state’, later agreed to an almost year-long moratorium on construction in the Jewish communities in the disputed areas of Judea and Samaria to facilitate negotiations with the Palestinians. None of it was enough to persuade Abbas to seriously negotiate. Why should it now? As for security, based on their experience, the idea of the Left promoting it is a non-starter for a majority of Israelis.
As harsh as it may sound, the brute fact is that the Left is now viewed, in the eyes of the majority of the voting public, as outside the Jewish political consensus in Israel. Netanyahu’s 1997 remark to the Kabbalist Yitzhak Kadouri, that left-wingers ‘have forgotten what it means to be Jewish’, while particularly intemperate, was simply a case of noting the path chosen by Israel’s Left.
Shimon Peres’ remark, ‘the Jews voted for Bibi’ affirmation in 1996 (based on the Likud’s campaign slogan sponsored by Chabad, that ‘Bibi is good for the Jews’), and Yair Garboz’s 2015 taunt about ‘amulet kissers, idol-worshippers who prostrate themselves at the graves of saints’ do not appear to be evidence of the Left’s resilience but of the Left’s increasing disconnect from Israel.
While Benny Gantz seemed to be striving to avoid such pitfalls, we have witnessed the Democratic Party’s Ram Ben-Barak’s ‘black-them/white-us’ misspeak. It is easy for non-Left voters to believe that nothing has really changed for the self-annointed elitist elements in Israel’s political system. Ben-Barak reinforced what many in Israel perceive as the non-Jewish-identity element of the Left.
Amiran blames Netanyahu for the left’s isolation, arguing that ‘during his years in office, “leftists” have been made into the ultimate scapegoat, responsible for all troubles, and labelled as “anti-Zionist” or even “traitors”’. But she ignores not only the Left’s failure to respond adequately to the needs of Israelis but also the harsh Leftist rhetoric aimed at Netanyahu personally, and the Left’s degrading treatment of those who vote for him. To insist that ‘the Left’s moderate, conciliatory stance towards the Israeli-Arab conflict, and its commitment to social justice values, remain popular’ is to be, if I may employ a pun, blind in Gaza.
The Left in Israel has allowed itself to become the maidservant of foreign forces, further distancing itself from the Israelis whose support they need to be elected. There was the OneVoice V15 campaign in 2015, not only imported from America by leftist Jews on both sides of the Atlantic but paid for by Barack Obama’s State Department. The plethora of NGOs, while dealing with needed social services, are perceived by the majority of Israelis as not only acting as foreign agents through their EU-sourced budgets, but as advancing the interests of communities for whom the Jewish state of Israel is not an important value, as well as boosting groups that are divisive rather than consensus-building. And to all that we can add the monthly contretemps at the Western Wall, toward which even the most non-religious adopt a nonplussed attitude, especially as a new separate prayer space was provided.
The Left now hopes that Avigdor Lieberman’s personal hostility to Netanyahu may force a unity government with Gantz. This would seem to be quite self-defeating for the Left. Lieberman’s defense and security policies are opposite to theirs, while his history with the courts and charges of financial misdoings (from which he has been cleared) uncomfortably parallel Netanyahu. If the Left should embrace him to gain power one thing is for sure; it would not at all represent what Amiran proposes is the left’s route to power.
Employing ideology to alter reality is quite normal. But for Amiran to use her ideology to hide the Israeli reality is abnormal.
The Oslo Agreements spelled the beginning of the end for the left and Land for Peace. The Two State Solution has been buried. The Deal of the Century whenever it is released will cede autonomy to the Palestinian Arabs but not a state. Israel will be responsible for security from the River to the Sea.
So when Amiran states that the left is revitalizing, she is singing in the graveyard. To count the Joint List as part of the B&W is nonsense. They want Netanyahu gone, but in no way would Gantz accept them in a coalition. Any party that works with the Joint List will disappear at the next election. That is why President Rivlin gave the PM a first shot at forming a government.
The only way a Unity Government can be formed is if B&W accepts the religious bloc and drops Lapid, and Likud drops Netanyahu. Without these concessions, a stalemate will result. The caretaker government will continue until a third election. And if new higher thresholds are not enacted, breaking the Gordian Knot will be impossible.
Yitzhak Rabin z”l was a man of the left, but a realist; he opposed the notion of a totally sovereign state of Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians,” knowing full well what the consequences for Israel would be if such a state were to be manufactured-the crimes of the entity that rules Gaza have vindicated him.