Opinion

From Yair Lapid On, Israel's Left Has to Ditch the Infighting

Everybody in Lapid’s Yesh Atid party has embraced extreme leftist positions at some point in the past. At the end of the day, they’re all in the same camp | Opinion

Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid in the Knesset.
Olivieh Fitoussi

Even with a magnifying glass, it’s hard to find differences between the platform of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and that of Zionist Union or left-wing Meretz. For that, you have to peel away the layers of Yesh Atid’s lip service, for a start. And you have to assume that the top priority is Israel’s diplomatic, security and socioeconomic future.

All three parties offer the same agenda. For example, on relations with the Diaspora, Yesh Atid writes: “We believe that the State of Israel must function as the center of the Jewish world and care for all pursued and persecuted Jews anywhere on Earth.” Meretz writes that it’s taking part in the battle against the anti-Semitism and racism mounting around the world.

At the personal level, it’s impossible to distinguish between the security ideas of Yesh Atid’s Jacob Perry, Hatnuah’s Elazar Stern and the Labor Party’s Omer Bar-Lev (the latter two are both in the Zionist Union alliance). It’s also impossible to distinguish between the economic ideas of Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg and Yesh Atid’s Karine Elharrar.

Everybody in Lapid’s party has embraced extreme leftist positions at some point in the past – Lapid too. No army of publicists can change that fact; at the end of the day, they’re all in the same camp.

The problem is that some of them have accepted that Judaism and security are an exclusive matter for right-wingers, and instead of taking these issues back, they reinforce the discrimination. A significant part of that group (and some members of the Labor Party) are convinced that the people are stupid, and that if say they’re in the center of the political map, they’ll get voters in thrall to the “non-left.”

But the people are smarter than that, and if they have to choose between a fake non-left and a genuine right, they’ll always choose the genuine right. Why should they vote for that “gatekeeper” Perry or former Meretz member Yael German when they could vote for Habayit Hayehudi’s Ayelet Shaked and Likud’s Zeev Elkin?

Sometimes I try to imagine what’s going through Yesh Atid leaders’ minds when they agree with every word uttered by Meretz chief Zehava Galon. All they have to do is avoid being caught on camera nodding.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon in the Knesset, Feb. 14, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

This week’s op-ed by former Meretz MK Tzvia Greenfield is a stellar example of a pointless rerun that achieves nothing. Yesh Atid and Meretz are rising in popularity at the expense of Zionist Union, according to polls. Public opinion hasn’t changed a bit. Clearly, when the consciences of Yesh Atid MKs Lapid, Ofer Shelah and Meir Cohen pin them to the wall in some dark alley, they’ll admit to being leftists.

Some feel that Meretz is the only true left and all the rest are feeble copycats. But the reason Meretz often takes blows from within, to the point of calls for its dissolution, originates in tactics that ignore questions of worldview and values.

The only way to unite the ranks and possibly lead the left to electoral victory isn’t to make Meretz disappear but to hold an open primary and agree that the rivals are on the right, not in the family. This camp must encompass Yesh Atid. Only a leader who doesn’t build himself up by shooting arrows at the left and delegitimizing it, despite the fierce infighting, will be worthy of leadership.