Griping About Orli Levi, and Voting for Yoaz Hendel

Orli Levi-Abekasis and Amir Peretz, in September 2019.
Moti Milrod

The Knesset has its own tests. Last week, the test came with the vote on immunity for Likud MK Haim Katz. Many parties showed contempt for their electorate there, and trafficked in their votes so as to enable a member of the junta to evade the courtroom. It’s not surprising that all the right-wing parties were in favor, nor it is surprising that MKs from Kahol Lavan and the Joint List abstained. The only party that passed this test was Labor-Gesher-Meretz.

It’s easy to laugh at the leftists who feel that Meretz has become too right wing for their tastes, who gripe about Orli Levi-Abekasis and then go vote for Yoaz Hendel, Moshe Ya’alon and Zvi Hauser. But something deeper lies beneath this decision. When people feel that a party is no longer their political home and compromises tarnish every vote, they give up on it and start to think strategically. This is a necessary process in the parties that have just merged. The groom’s side thinks the bride is too far left, and the bride’s side is thinking of voting Kahol Lavan.

But this merger actually proves how important it is that the members of this party become a major force in the Knesset. Because Labor, Meretz and Gesher were well aware of the risk. They knew that they would bleed voters to the right and left, and that there was a chance that after the merger, they wouldn’t make it into the next Knesset. And yet they showed responsibility and united in order to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government. I have a thousand differences with them, but I know that in every important test I will find them in the right place.

This is our third election campaign in a row and no nation should be subjected with such frequency to the selling of lies and baseless hatred. But we should be experienced enough by now to leave some of the old lies behind us. The last two elections ended inconclusively because neither bloc could obtain a large-enough majority. Therefore, with all due respect to the desire to oust Netanyahu, it is imperative that we understand that it’s not the size of the party that matters, but the size of the bloc. And Gantz will not be able to put together a government with the aid of one stray seat that leaks to his party from the merger of the left-wing parties.

The right was offended when Democratic Union MK Yair Golan said that it was their policy that ignited the current wave of terror. There are people who even after more than a decade in power won’t learn to take responsibility. But Golan bravely spoke the truth that many here are afraid to express. At the same time, Kahol Lavan was proposing either annexation of the Jordan Valley or war in Gaza – it’s hard to recall already.

And when Netanyahu persuaded Trump to insert in his peace plan the transfer of Israeli Arab citizens in the Triangle, it took Benny Gantz two weeks to announce his opposition to this. Apparently he had to check the polls to see whether making an ethical statement wouldn’t anger some right-wing moderate too much. It’s hard to describe how appalling this silence was, what a thundering failure not just of leadership but of human decency. The MKs from Labor, Meretz and Gesher were not silent.

We like to tell ourselves that our vote is tested the day after the election. This is a mistake. MKs are tested every day, and each day brings a new test. The way they handle these tests determines what will be precedent-setting and what will become routine, where the boundaries will be drawn of what is permitted to talk about in Israel, and what issues will be at the center of the next struggles.

One can only guess how number 35 on the Kahol Lavan list will vote, but I know how Mossi Raz and Emily Moati, numbers 14 and 15 on the united left list will vote, and I know who will truly represent me in the Knesset.