Opinion

A Big Day Is in the Offing

With the Labor Party leadership elections on Tuesday, the whole region is readying for a revolution. Or not.

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog at a campaign event ahead of the party's internal elections on July 4.
Tomer Apelbaum

Today is the beginning of the week in which our lives begin to change. In the words of lyricist Didi Manusi’s song “60 years old:”

“A big day is in the offing/ a young and new kind of day/ Ironing out wrinkles/ and erasing years/ because really, it’s not a symbol/ not a flag. The past is behind it – it’s looking to the future … in short, renewing itself/ like seasons of the year/ summer/ winter/ beloved, quarrelsome/ but deep underneath/ it’s always spring there.”

It’s always spring in the Labor Party, and now it is again renewing itself like the seasons of the year. The day after tomorrow, it will be holding internal leadership elections. We are holding our breaths. Who will be chosen as leader? It’s almost like asking who will lead Israel to its new horizon. There are five leading candidates, all of them worthy. There is a deep and fascinating ideological chasm dividing them and all of them herald major change, if not a revolution.

Even if the party’s current leader, Isaac Herzog, is reelected, it will be a major change, because it will be a Herzog like you’ve never known. There’s no need to waste words on what will happen if one of the others is elected. It would be like Britain’s New Labour Party. A revolution.

The next leader is already warming up and peace is warming up for him in the capitals of the region. In Ramallah, they’re preparing for the signing ceremony. In the Jenin refugee camp, it’s the celebrations over the end of the occupation. In Gaza, there are plans for removal of their cage of a security fence, and in Tel Aviv, they’re decorating the streets in advance of the freedom holiday for asylum seekers. Israel is renewing itself.

Five candidates

The left wing has come out into the light, human-rights groups have been set free and the Israel Prize is being given to Breaking the Silence. The settlements are being put on hold, nation-state laws – and the submarine purchase contract from Germany – are to be rescinded, and the money that would have gone for the submarines will be redirected to spending on public health. Civil society will come back to life, the process of nationalistic-religious control of the country will be halted and the extreme right-wing group Lehava will be outlawed.

We won’t recognize Israel. All we have to do is imagine Amir Peretz, Erel Margalit, Avi Gabbay, Omer Bar-Lev and a new Isaac Herzog at the helm. Imagine.

The countless interviews and the “debates” of the five candidates paint a picture that sparks the imagination. Herzog is promising a centrist bloc, Peretz a shadow government. Gabbay will divide the country into districts with a Knesset member assigned to each one. Margalit will reestablish the opposition, while Bar-Lev is promising a law that would compensate West Bank settlers who leave voluntarily.

The Siha Mekomit (Local Conversation) website asked them if they see the largely Arab Joint List Knesset faction as a coalition partner in a government that they would head. Such a question is an outstanding touchstone of the candidates’ true attitude towards Israel’s Arabs and towards peace, democracy and their own fortitude.

Herzog said it was not possible because of the Joint List and Peretz said it was impossible because of the “nationalistic and extremist character” that had taken over the Joint List. That “left-winger” Margalit said he would like to see “Arab representatives,” but ignored the Joint List, while Gabbay said that based on its current composition, it was impossible to cooperate with it.

In other words: Each and every one of them said ‘no’ to the most significant potential partner for genuine change in Israel. Yesh Atid pary leader Yair Lapid would have put it better: “What do we need that Labor Party for?”

What do we need that Labor Party for when not a single one of its future leaders says anything that hasn’t already been talked about ad nauseam? Not a single one of them dares say a thing about the crimes of the occupation, about the big elephant in the room. Not a single one of them is proposing a solution, other than proclamations from the past that have been tried endlessly.

None of them have learned from their colleague, Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the British Labour Party, which was also viewed previously as the walking dead, just as our Labor Party is. Yet Corbyn suddenly transformed it into a dynamic and true ideological alternative that came close to winning last month’s U.K. election.

Corbyn didn’t impersonate Theresa May and didn’t flatter the right wing. He didn’t claim to be centrist and wasn’t afraid of profane words such as “left wing.” Corbyn dared to say all of the things that the Israeli Labor Party candidates’ communications consultants would never allow them to utter. Change happened in the British elections.

A big day is in the offing. Israel’s Labor Party doesn’t have a shadow of a Jeremy Corbyn. So you can doze off and vote for Yair Lapid.