Left Can Unite to Lead Israel Once Again

Those who wish for a new start would do well to look toward the West rather than backwards. The Israeli labor movement was an ad hoc invention for the purpose of creating independence, but no more than that.

zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell
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zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell

For the first time in a long while, a real buzz is being felt among the left in Israel. Groups are getting organized with the intention of showing a presence in the street. The Labor Party, too, is waking up from a long period of paralysis imposed on it by Ehud Barak. However it will not be able to be a relevant force again in the politics of the left unless it separates itself, once and for all, from all those who cooperated with Barak in setting up the Netanyahu-Lieberman government.

True, not everyone who believed that the old-new leader would succeed in dragging Netanyahu to a peace agreement with the Palestinians deserves to be denounced at the pillory, but those who continued sitting in that government until they were thrown out, must go. In that way it will be possible to begin gathering the forces for establishing a credible social democratic party.

The major obstacle is the lack of willingness on the part of people with a coherent ideology to reach a compromise among themselves. There are a number of bodies currently active in the Zionist left that are divided by differences of nuance, and sometimes also of real content, but not by critical differences.

From the Sheikh Jarrah group to the "National Left" (this term when translated into one of the European languages sounds really bad ) and including Meretz and those people from Labor who are sick and tired of the opportunism of their leaders, there is a sufficiently broad common denominator that can create a tool for changing the reality.

Indeed, they all share the opinion that an end must be put to the occupation and a Palestinian state must be established. They all have in common the understanding that a continuation of Israeli rule over the Palestinians will create an apartheid state here or destroy Israel as a country in which the Jewish majority enjoys sovereignty and self-rule.

They are all repulsed by the burgeoning racism that is spreading through this society at the initiative of the right wing. And what is no less important, they are all convinced that economic neoliberalism is a recipe for social disaster and eventually also for economic collapse. They also all believe that society and the state exist for the benefit of the individual, and that the human being is the objective of social and political activity. Likewise, they all know that democracy is based on human rights.

Such a principled outlook produces clear political conclusions, which form the basis on which it is possible to unite the forces.

It should be emphasized that a political party is not a pressure group for achieving one goal, no matter how lofty it may be. A party must reflect a comprehensive view of the social and political reality, and needs basic guidelines in all spheres of public life.

This remark is aimed specifically at Knesset member Shelly Yachimovich; she is a determined and courageous woman but turning her back on the existential need to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians will not be to her benefit. If she wishes to lead the left, she must not ignore the disaster that the occupation produces and hope that by virtue of closing her eyes in this manner, the lower income groups will rush to her side.

Those who wish for inspiration for a new start would do well to look toward the West rather than backwards. The Israeli labor movement was an ad hoc invention for the purpose of achieving independence, but no more than that.

Even in the distant past it would seem from time to time that the Histadrut labor federation was closer to being a corporation than a workers' organization fighting to change the face of society.

In principle, it would be appropriate to build the new party on different ideological streams. The differences of opinion would find expression at the local level and in various elected central bodies, and every year a convention would discuss the proposals for policy, and this is where the platform and directives for action would be formulated. All the opinions would be aired and the decisions would be binding on all.

The party that would be established would not be a ruling party immediately, but its influence would be much greater than what there is today, and as a beginning, that is not something negligible.



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