The Demise of Israel's Left May Be the Birth of a New Political Force

The time is ripe for the creation of a new political entity to fill in the vacuum left by Kadima, Labor and Meretz.

Avshalom Vilan
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Avshalom Vilan

On the continuum between centrist Kadima and leftist Hadash, on the ruins of Meretz and Labor, a new political body must arise - one that will inspire hope and serve as a realistic alternative to the individualistic and opportunistic politics that have become the norm here. Unfortunately, there is not one group (or even part of a group ) in the Israeli political arena today that can fill this gap.

The Labor Party, despite the temporary "homecoming" euphoria sparked by the resignation of five of its members, will soon be threatened by internal political clashes that it may not survive. In any event, it has not offered a real alternative to the current leadership (not even among its remaining members ) for a long time. Kadima was and is a party of individuals, a random assortment of representatives of the left and right, a supermarket of ideas. As such, it lacks an ideological backbone and a common denominator that could enable it to formulate some kind of policy.

Meretz, too, unfortunately, no longer enjoys the kind of public support that could create a critical mass of voters. And the Great White Hope of Yair Lapid, built entirely on Lapid's persona as television star and journalist, will no doubt vanish after one election, the way Dash and Shinui did.

Still, I believe that there is a very large public out there - the same public that is sick of apologizing for being on the left and of softening its positions in order to find an excuse to vote for parties it does not wholeheartedly support - that is searching for a bloc to identify with. This new bloc, which would enter the historic space between the right and radical left, would be founded on principles widely embraced by large segments of Israeli society but which today have no political address: genuine and uncompromising moves toward peace, without forfeiting security; economic advancement coupled with a genuine commitment to reducing gaps in income and social rights; total separation of church and state; environmental awareness as a top national priority; and guaranteed civil and human rights.

These five principles would be the foundation upon which the new bloc would be built.

The obvious question is who will lead such a group? But this question diverts the discussion from the essentials to personalities, much as the public debate today centers on the image and public persona of leaders and not at all on the core issue of leadership.

In order to bypass this question, the new political bloc would have to create a team of leaders working in tandem who agree to neutralize the ego games that dominate politics and to prevent them from having a negative impact. Before the election, a leader would be chosen as first among equals, but the emphasis would remain on the team and the path - not on who holds the reins - and on the development of mutually beneficial relations.

It would be embellishing the truth to say that the new party would consist only of "new, young faces," having grown tired, as we have, of the same old faces skipping from one party to another like peddlers.

Obviously, though, new faces - young leaders hungry for a different kind of politics, who hail from smaller towns, regional councils, social and economic organizations, and the academy - must constitute the majority. They would work alongside the veterans, yes, the familiar faces, but only those veterans who have consistently waved a different banner, who would be willing to share their experience.

The political vacuum created a while back, but now felt with greater force, provides a rare opportunity today to build (or better, rehabilitate ) Israeli society in the spirit of humanity and the prophets of Israel. I am convinced that if the leaders and the team of this new political bloc succeed in conveying their message, they will attract multitudes who do give a damn. It would be a fitting end to a calamitous period of political abandonment.

The writer, a former Meretz MK, is the secretary general of the Israel Farmers Federation.

Leftist protesters in Tel Aviv on Saturday, June 5, 2010. Credit: Nir Keidar



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