Following the resignation of Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz, the Knesset lost an experienced parliamentarian, and a politician who struggled for values and principles - not simply appointments and personal aggrandizement. Pines-Paz, who resigned from Ehud Olmert's government to protest the inclusion of Avigdor Lieberman and his racist political platform, also opposed the entry of Labor into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition - to the point where he was forced into the group of "rebels" in the party, and now pushed into the political sidelines. "I have found myself in an impossible situation, a dead end," he said in explaining his surprising resignation on Thursday.
Pines-Paz set a personal example in his refusal to "stick to the chair" without being able to have any influence, but his departure has broader implications. The weakness of the "rebels," who lost their chance to break away and set up an independent left-wing faction, strengthens the glue holding the coalition of Netanyahu and Labor chairman Ehud Barak together and stabilizes their government.
Netanyahu is governing the country without any real opposition on the left. Labor and Kadima, the only two parties that have represented an alternative to Likud rule, are both internally divided on whether to join the coalition - the former from within its ranks and the latter from without. Opposition head Tzipi Livni is busy with a party leadership struggle and has not challenged Netanyahu with alternative political proposals. Meretz, which barely managed to cross the threshold needed to get into the Knesset, is dealing with "boutique issues"; its position is barely heard on key national issues.
At the political forefront a vacuum has emerged: There is a need for a party that will fight for peace, social justice and civil rights. There is a need for politicians who will fight for ideas and rally public support, not just fight for positions. There is a need for an alternative ideology to the "yes and no" rule of the prime minister. There is a need for a leadership with values that will say "No to Lieberman."
Pines-Paz's resignation highlights the weakness of the Israeli left, which lost one of its noteworthy leaders, but also the great opportunity that has emerged today for rehabilitating it. Livni's achievements during the last election demonstrated that there are many voters who support "different politics." Now there is a need for leaders and activists who will raise the lowered banners, rebuild the camp and rally voters. Their task will not be easy, but they will fill an essential need within Israeli democracy.
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