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Israeli Left Should Note History: When You Try to Appease the Right, You Lose

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Israeli Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, at the Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. After falling out with Benjamin Netanyahu as a junior cabinet minister last year, Gabbay is now a leading candidate to replace the scandal-plagued prime minister.
Israeli Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, at the Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

It seems that Avi Gabbay, the new chairman of the Zionist Union, is resuscitating Meretz, breathing life back into its tiny body with mouth-to-mouth resucitation. Without the leftists who are fleeing Gabbay, who with Swiss watch precision launches a sucker punch to them every few days, the only left-wing party in Israel would have faded away under the internal battles and leadership crisis that interest exactly no one.

This would seem to be good news for the ideological left, those who turn up their noses when they encounter the racist roots of the Labor party or motivation to appease “public opinion,” which stretches out like a wedding canopy over the 35 Knesset seats of Labor and Yesh Atid.

But political history proves that every time Labor’s leaders fall into the trap of sucking up to the right, or as it is called in political strategy lingo: “winking to other constituencies,” not only do they once again watch Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu establish another government, but they lose their own leadership positions soon afterwards.

Shelly Yacimovich wanted to harness the right and settlers to her social project and won the meager accomplishment of 15 Knesset seats, and this even came near the time of the mass social protests.

Isaac Herzog did not want to be painted as an “Arab lover” and he watched the final round for Labor chairman from home – after he received just a little more than 5,000 votes in the recent Labor primary.

In comparison, Yitzhak Rabin won the election in 1992 because of his message of peace and promises of reversing the stubborn rejectionist of Yitzhak Shamir, alongside a huge achievement for Meretz, which received 12 Knesset seats with a slogan adopting Rabin.

Ehud Barak and Labor won in 1999 with the promise to leave Lebanon, and Meretz stood tall at their side with 10 Knesset seats.

This trend works in the opposite direction too: Most of the time when Labor was laid low, Meretz was in a similar state, teetering on the edge of not winning votes needed to stay in the Knesset. In 2009, when the right split between Likud and Kadima, Labor marked the paltry win of 13 Knesset seats, and Meretz fell to a low of three seats.

The meaning of all these numbers is that Labor and its leader can win only when they are confident in their leftist values and manage to move the public sentiment in that direction, which also feeds Meretz and causes it to grow stronger, too.

But Gabbay is heading exactly in the opposite direction.

After he announced he would not sit in a government with the Joint List, he continued with a statement that settlements should not be evacuated, spiced things up with the persecution of Israeli-Arab MK Zouheir Bahloul who dared to not celebrate the Balfour Declaration, and ended with his discovery of God.

Gabbay is now hitting a new low: Support for one of the ugliest laws proposed by the right, which allows the deportation of asylum seekers to places where their lives may be in danger and jailing them for an unlimited period of time.

Beyond all of Gabbay’s miserable moral considerations he has uttered like, “We don’t need to be more righteous than the High Court of Justice, we will pay a heavy price for opposing the law, it will not go over well with the public,” and the mortal damage to the values of the left and the close collaboration with the delegitimization from the right, he has adopted a strategy that so far has simply not proved itself worthwhile.

Israel already has more than enough political parties who have set themselves the goal of scorning humanistic values, debasing democracy and abusing minorities with pseudo-patriotic justifications – which is nothing but pure and disgusting racism.

Gabbay’s Zionist Union is turning into the most worn-out and pathetic of them all.

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