Center-left Leaders, Wake Up

Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
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Israel's centrist left leaders. L-R: Ofer Selah, Yaron Zelekha, Ron Huldai, Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Dani Yatom
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak

There are three weeks left for submitting the party slates, and we have before us 11 different parties from the center leftward. Although there is a legitimate right to political organization, there is also a real error in judgment here, which is likely to cause serious damage.

The order of the day is to overcome obstacles, to sit together and to establish a broad bloc of parties, which will include most of the components of the center-left. It’s hard, but it’s also crucial and possible. The calls by Ofer Shelah and Benny Gantz this week are a step in the right direction, but that’s not enough.

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Aside from Yesh Atid, every one of the parties is likely to fall below the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent. And it will in fact happen to half of them; during the first round in this series of elections the right lost about 200,000 votes that way.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued efforts to bring about a regime change and to escape from his trial under cover of the coronavirus pandemic, the emergency regulations, and the 30-year classified information law blocking discussions of the failure, make the traditional election agendas irrelevant.

The pandemic and its results will reshape the life, politics and view of reality of all of us, but that won’t happen within 70 days. And therefore, the agenda will be the 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who immigrated from Russia, lives in a 12-square-meter apartment and has to decide whether to heat the water for his shower today; elderly couples who have to choose between medications and food; the young man who opened a small shop or café and is seeing his dream and his livelihood destroyed; tens of thousands of owners of businesses that are collapsing; the one million unemployed; students who have lost their bearings; and young people who have no future – neither job security nor any chance for an apartment, and in whose eyes the government has violated its obligation to provide them with opportunities and hope.

All of that, when in the background hovers the threatening shadow of the pandemic, which we hope will really be removed by the vaccinations. The conflict with the Palestinians and matters of religion and state will have to wait. Under these conditions it’s hard to see the difference between Yair Lapid and Ron Huldai, or between Danny Yatom and Ofer Shelah. If the splitting into separate parties continues, the chances of removing Netanyahu will suffer a serious blow, and a right-wing government, even without Netanyahu, will be the alternative. It will take years before the damage caused by the Netanyahu regime is repaired, so let’s at least not be the ones responsible for contributing to its continuation.

Center-left voters have yet to recover from the rift between Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, and the public in general is losing is faith in the political system and government institutions. Spearheading the change are the determined and fearless protesters. They are the ones who caused the defendant from Balfour Street to crack, and led Gideon Sa’ar and Zeev Elkin to leave Likud, and they are the ones who will ensure that the legal system and the public discourse won’t give in to Netanyahu.

The pandemic exposed the administrative failure of leaders and politicians, who resemble a gang of schemers in a reality show, focused on fake news and on their image. In contrast to them are the amazing scientists who developed vaccines in record time, and the outstanding medical teams – people whose entire existence is facts and truth and essence.

I hope and believe that we are at the end of the present political era, and that in the coming years we will witness a revolution. I would like to see 130 women (50 percent) heading local government after the 2023 elections for local councils, a female prime minister in a cabinet including 50 percent female ministers, many young people in future governments, and politics in which the citizens and public discourse often influence government decisions.

That won’t happen in 70 days, but in order to realize that vision, we must come together now, and the public and the protest movements must issue a call in a strong and clear voice to all the party heads: Leaders, wake up and get off your high horses. If you don’t, you will bear the responsibility.

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