The Real Reason Mizrahim Vote for Netanyahu, and Why the Left Can't Win Them Over

Contrary to leftist popular belief, Netanyahu supporters aren't voting against their interests, explains sociologist Nissim Mizrachi

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Sociologist Nissim Mizrachi.
Sociologist Nissim Mizrachi.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

On the eve of a third election, on the brink of a breakdown between two political camps, and in a situation of a paralyzing political stalemate and of one prime minister with three criminal indictments and the support of a public that’s more loyal than ever to him – it’s worth listening to sociologist Nissim Mizrachi.

Like everyone, Prof. Mizrachi, former head of the department of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University, sees the country’s liberals tearing out their hair one election after another, trying to fathom why weaker communities in the country, particularly lower-class Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin) reject the left-wing message that would seemingly benefit them. This is the other side of the coin of the million-dollar question in Israeli politics: Why do the Mizrahim vote for Bibi?

But in Mizrachi’s seminal 2012 article, “Beyond the Garden and the Jungle: On the Social Limits of Human Rights Discourse in Israel,” the reader will not find any of the standard answers to that question that are typically offered by the liberal camp: “false consciousness,” “herd instinct,” “baboons,” “battered wife syndrome,” “Stockholm syndrome.” If anything, Mizrachi thinks that if anyone is suffering from blindness it is the liberals who think that if they put Mizrahim at the top of a left-wing party’s electoral slate, masses of Mizrahi voters will flock to the polling stations to cast their ballots for it.

The problem is not the “messenger,” he maintains. Rather, the liberal left must itself reexamine the message it’s disseminating. To do that, however, it must display humility – a rare commodity among people who see themselves as the standard bearers of moral progressivism.

“I think the most blatant phenomenon in world politics today is the resounding defeat of the liberal vision,” Mizrachi says. “It’s a double breakdown: one involving the government, in the sense of the left’s inability to gain a political foothold among the masses; and more deeply, one involving an inability to imagine an order that accommodates opposition groups.”

Liberals, he continues, “find it difficult to believe that what they see as a solution is actually perceived as a problem by the broad public, and especially among the weaker groups, who would presumably benefit from liberal justice and human rights. The result is a sense of deep despair among the liberals. Their toolbox contains no viable option for gaining broader acceptance and winning elections.”

We saw manifestations of despair among liberals because of the voting patterns in the last election [in September]. Their frustration with residents of southern Israel, who are battered by missiles, continuing to vote for the right and for Benjamin Netanyahu, started to be given less delicate expression: wishes for a missile to strike the south, or comments like, “Next time you get hit by missiles, don’t complain to me.”

“The human species I call ‘homo liberalicus’ – secular liberals who think in universalist terms – finds it extremely difficult to digest the fact that their message might be perceived as violent. These people see liberalism as both desirable and already extant.”

Liberals do not perceive themselves as “classifiable” from the outside.

“Exactly. It’s an outlook that’s transparent to itself. Something has also happened to the academic world, which has adopted liberalism as the normative approach. I am not a liberal sociologist, I am a sociologist of liberalism. I observe liberalism from an analytical distance as a phenomenon, and I examine the conditions that make it possible, its feasibility in the world, its boundaries, just as I examine illiberal phenomena, or other visions of a social order. But liberals find it difficult to imagine that in their outlook there is something that smacks of force, of the missionary. When you ask why people vote against their own interests, the question can be turned around: Why do you think they should vote according to your values?”

What, in your view, is liberal violence?

“For example, the demonstrable revulsion regarding any expression of religious or nationalist belief. The whole story of religionizing [in the schools] – in many cases, the diatribes against its manifestations seem more like moral panic at yet another sign of the jungle’s encroachment on the enlightened garden – on the enlightened garden of our children.”

Liberalism’s problem is clear. But where do you personally stand on specific issues, such as exclusion of women or the attitude toward homosexuality? Aren’t these areas where liberalism should confront other ways of life?

“Is confrontation the only alternative? I am raising daughters, and as a private individual with roots in the place in which he lives, it’s clear that I prefer to see them grow up with all possibilities open to them. But as a sociologist who observes a reality of a fractious society and of deep diversity, I must think about specific issues from the standpoint of different groups.

“Here, too, stepping out of the liberal box allows us to see that even the definition of a problem is not self-evident. For example, strong and opinionated, religiously observant women object to the labeling of gender separation as ‘exclusion.’ Moral relativism has become something that’s automatically deplored, but I don’t see how it is possible to deny a reality in which groups in a society are differentiated on the basis of their perceptions of good and bad and of what constitutes a moral life.

“The attitude religious and traditionalist groups have toward sexual orientation shifts over time, in part due to the trickling down of liberal values, in precisely the same way that values and customs from the religious world trickle down into the liberal world. A critical gaze at liberalism does not mean the normative rejection of liberal values. But as a general rule, as my friend [Israeli philosopher] Meir Buzaglo says, liberalism is important, but let’s not go overboard.”

Netanyahu at Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman

Pain of identification

During our first conversation, in a neighborhood café near Tel Aviv University – a bastion of the “enlightened garden” of the liberal camp – Mizrachi explains that resistance to universalist politics stems also from resistance to the community that advocates it. When he explains that liberal messages are taken as a concrete threat to Jewish identity, his pain is evident. Pain that derives from identification with those messages.

He initially specialized in the field of the sociology and anthropology of medicine, conducting studies relating to the importance people attribute to social differences, trust and authority in various contexts: education, medicine and economics. In the past decade, however, Mizrachi focused on the sociology of liberalism and human rights, and on the possibility of achieving liberal justice and human rights in a reality of social diversity. Concurrently, he was involved in an international study that examined how people from minority groups cope with stigma and stigmatization in everyday life. He is currently working on a book about how Israelis perceive social justice.

Describe for me the “political impasse” in which Israel is caught, in sociological terms.

“The political arena in Israel is stuck because of a deep rift between identity groups. When it comes to the hierarchy of the two terms ‘Jewish’ and ‘democratic,’ the left-center bloc would like to see the latter as a type of ID card for the State of Israel. This bloc perceives the political and social order in general secular, democratic terms. Its supporters imagine Israel as a modern Western state and fantasize that it is a country like those countries, but with a Jewish complexion. The right-wing bloc attaches far greater importance to Jewish identity than to democratic identity. This is a local identity that is bound up with the Jewish people – with everything related to the defense of the state’s Jewish identity before everything else.”

The liberals simply view everyone who rejects liberal liberation as being in the grip of false consciousness.

“To attribute false consciousness to someone in this kind of discourse is an act of objectification. It is to void the subject before you of his subjectivity. Let’s say, a woman who is flagrantly illiberal, disadvantaged – a Mizrahi, in this case – is perceived in your imagination and in your consciousness as a victim. It follows that anything she says that is not liberal (for example, ‘I pray every day for the Israel Defense Forces, for the Jewish state we have attained, and I kiss the soil of this land’), is not valid in its own right. And then you find structural explanations for how she got to that situation.”

It’s like those clips of people who complain that they are in bomb shelters all the time and that the economic situation is awful – and when you ask who they’re going to vote for, the response is, “Only Bibi.”

“There is an assumption that if people are aware of the hierarchy and of their own dire straits, they will necessarily see it as injustice and think that the way to rectify it is by means of structural or political change. But my data show that many of these people feel that their suffering is a sacrifice they make for the good of the nation. They do not see themselves as suffering individuals getting a bad deal from the state. They are confident that the person at the top of the political pyramid is working for their collective good. Maybe it’s not going well for him, but they don’t suspect him of acting out of motives that are not to their benefit. He is coping with the problems, and the alternatives aren’t necessarily better – just the opposite, in fact.”

Like in a family.

“Yes. By contrast, in the human rights discourse, which judges things according to international law and universalist rules, we can draw an analogy between an IDF officer and a Hezbollah fighter. From the viewpoint of human rights activists, the analogy is the most exalted expression of humanism. But for those who are not part of that discussion, it is an expression of betrayal of the basest sort. When people I interview who are right-wing Mizrahim and Likud voters, hear about [Israeli] Palestinians, Arabs or Druze, who contribute to the country and are truly loyal to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel – they are ready to defend to the death their right to get a fair deal from the state.”

Even though we saw, in connection with the Nation-State Law [which enshrines Israel’s Jewish national values above all others], that the Druze were excluded.

“True, but if you had seen the response of rank-and-file Likud people, they were definitely empathetic.”

It’s true that a great many people came to the Druze community’s protest demonstration against the Nation-State Law [in the summer of 2018], but a lot fewer attended the Arabs’ demonstration a week later.

“Look, showing a preference for our children over other children is perceived as almost natural by liberals, too, right?”


Supporters of Netanyahu demonstrating, near the attorney general’s house. “There is a deep distrust of the law enforcement system and of the media.” Credit: Meged Gozani

“Then what’s the problem with those who demarcate boundaries that go slightly beyond their his own children?”

Along those lines, liberals can be said to be expanding the boundaries of loyalty even further, so they will apply to all of humanity.

“Ordinary people easily accept the idea that a human being a human being, but the leap from there to the political waving of the flag of universalism frightens them. People from the right wing look at this sort of activity by the left as though its advocates want to destroy the world.”

You mean identifying with the Palestinians?

“Yes. You can see the violence it elicits from people, taxi drivers and others, who curse at left-wing protests – and those are normative people.”

And the demonstration releases something [in those normative people]?

“Yes. You won’t elicit that kind of behavior or aggression from them on issues of inequality, for example.”

Does the possibility of false consciousness even exist?

“On what basis can you even make an argument like this about false consciousness? On what implicit assumptions is it based? Is the argument that we all know that a liberal order is the correct, natural and progressive thing, and that all other ways of life and behavior are necessarily an anomaly? That all non-liberal types of life are a problem that demands a solution? That Likud voters are ‘brainwashed,’ ‘incited,’ ‘dumb’ and ‘don’t understand who’s screwing them’?

“The liberal left is not fully aware of the way in which its messages are perceived as threatening. It is not aware of the contempt and revulsion it expresses toward those populations, toward those it labels ‘Bibi-ites.’ I mean revulsion at people who kiss the mezuzah, or everyone they see as not being connected to this [liberal] order and not even connected to an ideologically alternative order of religious Zionism. And, by the way, they [the liberal left] do succeed in having a dialogue with the religious Zionist movement.”

Absolutely. That’s evident in the infatuation with [national-religious politician] Ayelet Shaked.

“Because the religious Zionist movement is an ideology-driven society.”

And an Ashkenazi one.

“Mostly. They consider them to be interlocutors in an ideological debate. The Bibi-ites – and this view is also held by the religious Zionist movement – are people who do not engage in discussion. Someone read me a tweet from Bezalel Smotrich [Habayit Hayehudi], something like ‘Shove it, Bibi-ites’ – but they do dialogue with the Zionist left and want to hear the adversary’s position.”


“Yes, modernist elites who speak with logic and reason and exchange ideas, a cultured discussion. As opposed to a group that in their eyes simply does not deserve to be in that category. They are objects of contempt and revulsion – how dare they occupy our place in the governing institutions? They are despised, they are always being preached to, they are told that they are the ugly face of Israel.”

Orli Levi-Abekasis and Amir Peretz at a Labor-Gesher conference. Credit: Gil Eliahu

Isn’t governmental corruption – apropos the Netanyahu cases – not an important issue for Netanyahu’s loyalists?

“To use the term ‘governmental corruption’ is already a determination of certain facts.”

The attorney general filed indictments and determined those facts.

“They have a deep distrust of those who are doing the determining, and hence of the facts.”


“There is a deep distrust of the law enforcement system and of the media. That should disturb anyone who wants to broaden the base of the social legitimization of the rule of law and to advance the cause of social solidarity. The Netanyahu cases are perceived as a genuinely existential threat by some of his supporters.”

Eclipse of the left

Mizrachi, 57, grew up in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood. “I do not observe the precepts but I respect tradition,” he says of himself. His parents both became blind when they were 2, from trachoma. His father, who was born in this country, was transferred to a school for the blind in Jerusalem. His mother immigrated to Israel from Iraq as an adolescent and had no schooling. Mizrachi has two older sisters; he and his wife, Iris, an ophthalmologist at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, have three daughters.

Mizrachi, earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan, where he was a Fulbright scholar, and did his post-doctoral studies at Harvard. In the 1990s, he relates, it was easy to adopt what he calls the liberal identities discourse in the United States, and to imagine the Mizrahim in Israel in terms of a minority that was the object of discrimination. Perhaps even to hope that an alliance of the oppressed would be forged between the Jewish Mizrahim and the Arabs, and that they would all grasp “the Ashkenazi Zionist conspiracy.” That vision, he says, fired up activists. They felt that it was possible to connect to international networks and be part of a dialogue with an attractive narrative: starting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and up to all those who would change the world and society and shatter the old order. But when they returned to Israel from the United States, intending to take on the “Zionist Bolsheviks,” he realized that the groups in whose name he and his colleagues presumed to speak were tuned in to a different station: that of the national discourse.

What did you discover?

“That the Mizrahim do not perceive themselves as a minority group. That they don’t want to be liberated from anything. They did not arrive in a neutral country, where all they want is to be universalist citizens, like the Arabs and others. They came to Israel because they harbor deep feelings for the Jewish people.”

In other words, their liberation lay in the very fact of their coming here.

“Precisely. Israel is the expression and embodiment of their liberation as Jews. That is also what caused the eclipse that befell the left-wing parties, which thought they could take three Mizrahim [onto their electoral slates] and there would be a landslide of Mizrahim in their favor. That all the Mizrahim want in Israel is representation. That they’ll see a Mizrahi [an allusion to Labor Party leader Amir Peretz] with a mustache and immediately rush to vote for him in their masses. Well, now we see the Labor-Gesher party, which is led by three paragons of Mizrahiness: one from the LGBT community, a woman and a man [referring, respectively to Itzik Shmuli, Orli Levi-Abekasis, and Peretz]. Is that making a dent in the Likud electorate? Why aren’t Likud voters flocking to that party?”

Why not, actually?

“Because that isn’t what they want – that is simply not the story. It’s a categorical error to think that Likud voters are just sitting around waiting for some sort of dialogue of redemption that will forge equality between poor and rich. Is that what the rest of the population wants? No. The rest of the population also knows that there’s an economy and that it’s nice to have equal opportunity, etc., but that is not the be-all and end-all.

“People ask why Mizrahim vote against their own economic interests, and I reply with a question: Are they the only ones? I know settlers who only want to conquer the hills, or my friends in liberal circles who seek only justice. Well, what’s far more important for the Mizrahim is the strength of the country. The identities dialogue, which marks people who are in specific locations, can be stigmatic in and of itself. Why should an ordinary, working-class person want to adopt a minority-group label? After all, the only ‘minority’ in this country is non-Jews. So why should he want to remove himself from the majority group?”

Like the clip of the Israeli woman who verbally abused a flight attendant who wouldn’t sell her duty-free chocolate, asking, “What am I, an Arab?

“Someone once said to me at a conference, ‘Everything revolves around security here. One missile is fired at Israel from Gaza and immediately everyone votes Likud.’ Really? Look at the communities around the Gaza Strip. One can make a clear distinction between Netivot, where people vote Likud and Shas and rightward, and local kibbutzim, which are colored red. They are hit by the same missiles and suffer from the same security problems, but the [political] division holds firm. In other words, periphery is a matter of demography, not geography. That is why Omer [an affluent suburb of Be’er Sheva] resembles similar communities in the center of the country – the fact that it’s in the south is totally marginal.”

So, is there any other division besides Mizrahim-Ashkenazim in [Jewish] Israel?

“All the empirical research we’ve done shows that the Mizrahi majority is upset by the Tel Aviv left and even hates them, but that it doesn’t necessarily talk about it in ethnic terms. When you look at the ethnic dispersion, you have a person bearing the name ‘Peretz’ in both the religious Zionist movement and in Labor. Both are of Moroccan origin, one was a pilot in the air force [Rabbi Rafi Peretz], both are in the Knesset and are or were in the government.

So left-right does not parallel Ashkenazi-Mizrahi?

“How could that be, if the extreme right in Israel is Ashkenazi by origin? The Mizrahim have no problem being led by an Ashkenazi who is good for the Jewish people. On the contrary. They have Mizrahi heroes like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – but there are also Menachem Begin, Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett. When did they vote [only] for Mizrahim? What are they angry about now and who are they defending – a Mizrahi? Certainly those termed Bibi-ites have an ethnic complexion, but the organizing principle underlying the sense of belonging to the camp is not ethnic.”

If the so-called genie is no longer ethnic, what is it now?

“Anyone who tries to paint it only in ethnic terms, based on the notion that ethnicity and Mizrahiness are the organizing principle, will be wrong time and again. That is what the left tried to do, for example, when they made Avi Buskila executive director of Peace Now, and the Mizrahim did not come.”

Avi Gabbay at Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Is that why Avi Gabbay failed as leader of the Labor Party?

“That question is better suited to political commentators than to sociologists. But I think that Mizrahiness in itself is not a commodity that is in great demand among the Mizrahi public. In other words, to be a Mizrahi is definitely not a sufficient condition nor a necessary one for political success. That’s not how identity politics works.”

What do you mean?

“The presupposition that the Mizrahi public views itself as a minority group, defines itself first and foremost as Mizrahi and therefore seeks Mizrahi representation, is unfounded. You see the contrast between the leadership of Labor-Gesher and the leadership of Likud – it’s a live experiment going on before our eyes. You see that three worthy Mizrahim are unable to attract votes from the right.”

So maybe the Labor Party or the left need to stop trying to find the Mizrahi person who will speak liberalese.

“Of course. That is a categorical error of the left. It’s an almost vulgar and simplistic application of identity politics, based on assumptions that inequality and oppression are the be-all and end-all of what motivates Mizrahim in Israel. That conception has failed time and again.”

So, what you are actually saying is: Stop thinking about this fantasy of appealing to new communities, meaning the Mizrahim.

“Those are cheap tricks that all Likud voters recognize instantly. There are all kinds of attempts based on the thesis that the vote of the Mizrahim is an anomaly, and seen through this lens, liberals are unable to see and perceive what those voters are actually saying. If they say things that are not compatible with the liberals’ imagined order, the latter immediately shut their ears and look for tricks. Gabbay, for example, tried to signal something when he said, ‘The left has forgotten what it is to be Jewish.’ He was saying that there is a population here whose loyalty to Jewish values and the state’s Jewish identity is very deep and should not be maligned. ”

But then everyone pounced on him.

“True. The left thinks that Haaretz can run articles all the time stating that God is nonsense and those people are idol worshippers, all kinds of enlightened talk said as if it was something avant-garde. Maybe it was avant-garde in the 18th century. Simplistically, I can say that the left cannot change without undergoing a deep metamorphosis – without examining itself from a slightly more humble position. To understand that the liberal vision is only one vision of order and it is not eternal. It’s true that Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history, but we’ve seen what happened to history since then.”

Alternative visions

At present Mizrachi is a senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, in Jerusalem. In recent years he has conducted research in two arenas: encounters between staff of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and public and educational figures affiliated with the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, through the mediation of the Shaharit think tank; and meetings between members of Shas and individuals belonging to the Islamic Movement (in conjunction with Dr. Erica Weiss, a cultural anthropologist from Tel Aviv University). Here, too, Mizrachi tried to breach the liberal lexicon of the peace camp and propose an alternative conceptual space and alternative visions of peace.

You explain that Mizrahim and Haredim on the right have no problem with Arabs, they only want to preserve a distinctive identity to the state. Just like the Muslims. They won’t intermarry. But the Zionist left, which is advancing the two-state solution, says, “I don’t want to get married, I want a divorce from the Palestinians.” They are talking about separation.

“The answer lies in the sources of the authority for the decision. If, for example, the basis of the authority for making a decision concerning separation [from the Palestinians] is halakha, it could definitely work. I think they don’t trust the motives of those who get excited by international law and the nations of the world. They are suspicious of their loyalty to the state. They don’t trust them to defend Jewish interests.”

In an interview, you quoted the political philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, who said that in order to discover the depth of democracy in a country, you need to examine the social diversity of its elite. What, then, is the social diversity of our elite?

“Some sections of the middle class and the elite are more homogeneous than others. But there is unprecedented upward mobility, a constant movement upward of different groups that are considered oppressed. The same applies to the Arab middle class in Israel. There is some amazing data.”

Well, then maybe Netanyahu is a liberator.

“Where the middle class is concerned – without a doubt. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t places where inequality is rampant.

Nissim Mizrachi.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

“People don’t vote for Bibi for economic reasons, just as they don’t stop voting for him when the situation is bad. But certainly they don’t accept the political theses of the social left, whose representatives have been warning for years about the sinking economy and about Israel’s isolation [in the world], and also all kinds of disasters that didn’t happen. People experience movement, experience possibilities. For many years, education was thought to be the most important thing on the agenda, and that those channeled into certain [inferior] schools would end up as street cleaners. But we see that a great many of the groups found indirect routes. They went into politics, found religion, got into the entertainment business and achieved key positions.”

So the situation in Israel isn’t so bad.

“That’s what the happiness and satisfaction surveys say.”

People are happy.

“In Israel the left-liberal group is the oppressed group.”

‘What’s driving them so crazy?’

How do you understand the renewed demand being made of Labor to join up with Meretz?

“There is always some sort of fantasy, which is very unclear to me, even amusing, that the left must unite and become an opposition with a knife between its teeth. Who are you trying to conquer? My aunt from Kiryat Malakhi? Like she’s going to change if you come to her with a knife between your teeth?”

Maybe as protection from violent right-wing demonstrators?

“I can tell you personally, that when I have hung out at [right-wing] demonstrations, I have seen people who could be my friends from the neighborhood, whom I know well. People I know will be generous and nice and warm in everyday life. I ask them what is driving them so crazy? ‘Why do you think that people who talk about equality and justice are coming to kill you? What’s so scary and threatening about what the left-wingers are doing and saying?’ We can’t move one inch toward those people without understanding this.”

Understanding what?

“That there is a serious identity threat here. It’s as though someone breaks into the intimate recesses of their Jewish communal identity, and eradicates the only world in which they are capable of living.”

What does the left need to do? In what way is it supposed to change?

“For example, to run a radical center party that rejects the left and the right, and offers a good basis for doing so, that connects deeply and pragmatically with problems that need to be resolved in reality and displays true respect for people’s worries from the standpoint of solidarity: for Jews who are concerned about the state’s Jewish identity; for Muslims who are concerned about their community’s Muslim identity and who are also not waiting for feminist redemption or for liberalism to bring salvation to their life. We live in a space in which there are communities that are undergoing deep and different moral experiences. We can take an example from families. What does a family do when it has these sorts of rifts, or when its members espouse very different outlooks on things? If the family enjoys solidarity and wants both to preserve boundaries and retain solidarity, it develops empathy – a dialogue from empathy.”

Or it says, we don’t talk about it at dinner. Like in apolitical demonstrations.

“In the last study, we tried to examine which groups in Israel come into contact with people different from them. The results aren’t surprising. The most insular and homogeneous group is the liberal left, the most blatantly pluralistic group is traditionalist Mizrahim. Their Passover table can accommodate a gay person who’s come out of the closet, a son becoming religious who is in a yeshiva or a boy who’s attending the Shas school system, voters from different parties sitting at the same table. Because these families place a very high value on family and don’t see themselves as autonomous individuals who conduct contractual relations among them – they maintain a pluralistic model in practice.”

So actually, those who maintain the most segregated lives are the supporters of the liberal left in Israel.

“Also the ‘end groups.’ In Mea She’arim, too – Shas’ electorate.”

Still, there’s an essential difference between Israel and other countries: the occupation. With only the left committed to stopping the rule over another people, it seems odd to place that motivation on the same level as the motivation to preserve Jewish identity in the face of universalist values. Because preserving it doesn’t end with lighting Shabbat candles. You need an army to preserve Jewish identity.

“The use of the term ‘occupation’ is already indicative of a position. Some would say it was the territories were ‘liberated’ But in the last survey we did with the Van Leer Institute, we asked people if they thought it was good for Israel to rule another people. The majority said, no. it’s not good for Israel to rule another people. We pushed a little further and asked, ‘Do you think it is moral [in general] to rule another people?’ Here, too a surprising result: It’s not moral to rule another people. But among those who said it’s not good and not moral, the majority of the respondents said there was no alternative. In other words, it is quite clear to all of us that we are stuck in this kind of situation, but the way out isn’t clear. I agree with you that this is an issue in its own right.”

I’m not saying it stands in its own right. On the contrary, I am saying that it’s impossible to disconnect it from the debate between the liberals and the traditionalists. It’s not only a debate over the values you want the state to espouse. Because, in order to realize the values of the right, the army has to rule over a foreign people. There’s this elephant in the room, and whoever mentions it loses the election.

“True. But from the perspective of a broad population in Israel, it’s frightening and scary to act hastily. From their point of view, it’s not an innocent population there [i.e., in the territories], but people whose explicit vision is to annihilate the Jewish state. Therefore we are stuck here and need an army here. And there is also a very interesting question about what peace is, which Erica and I studied.

“The liberal concept of peace is based on a treaty and international law, and historically it is a point in time that moves us from darkness to light. In fact, peace will take us into a state of normal existence for always. Communal and religious groups on both sides don’t see peace as a final condition. It may exist now, but it won’t necessarily be for always. Peace from their point of view is far more connected to inner peace. It needs to have content. Not only an agreement, but like in a relationship, like in love. And that relationship is built up far more from below and far more slowly.”

In other words, you could say that we are already in a peace process?

“Maybe. That is, part of these groups of settlers and Muslim women – Palestinian women in the territories and settlers sitting together and imagining how to live in this space together. I think we need to get used to thinking a lot more dynamically.”

To return to history.

“Right. Dogmatic liberalism is ahistorical.”

Then maybe the left simply needs to die.

“It’s already dead.”

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