If There Were an Israeli Left

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinians argue with Israeli security forces as they prepare to demolish the house of Palestinian Mohammed Qabaha, Jenin.
Palestinians argue with Israeli security forces as they prepare to demolish the house of Palestinian Mohammed Qabaha, Jenin.Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

If there were a left here, this is what it would do in the event it were voted into power. Some measures could be implemented at once, others would be the beginning of a process. No one in the Jewish left is even proposing them.

In the first 100 days of its imaginary government, the left would carry out a revolution. Mainly, not entirely, in its relation to the occupation, the topic that defines Israel’s identity more than any other. The first resolution passed by the left-wing government would end the siege of the Gaza Strip. In one day, as with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Strip would be liberated, its 2 million inhabitants would be free people. The sea would be open, and the border with Israel would be open and controlled. Concurrently, a call would go out from Israel, inviting the leaders of Hamas to a meeting. They could very well surprise us. We have much to talk about with them.

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The next step, also an immediate one, would be an extensive release of Palestinians who are incarcerated in Israel. All the thousands of political prisoners and the hundreds of people who are being held without trial, in so-called administration detention, all the Palestinian children and ill people in Israeli prisons would be set free at once. Leading them would be Marwan Barghouti, the only person with the ability to reunite the Palestinians.

Barghouti must be released immediately, just as F.W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela quite soon after becoming president. The rest must also happen at the stunning speed with which things happened in South Africa. A freed Barghouti would be elected Palestinian president, and Israel will find him to be an amazing partner. The lifting of the Gaza siege and the prisoner release will inspire hope. Israelis will be surprised at how easy it is, without exactlng a cost.

In its first 100 days, a leftist government would announce a freeze on all construction in the settlements – not even a single balcony in an apartment in Ma’aleh Adumim – until an agreement is reached with the Palestinians. Until that happens, Kiryat Arba will be given the same budget allocations as Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, and both of them together will receive the same amount as the Arab city of Taibeh. Settlements that were not approved by previous governments will be evacuated overnight.

Then, on to the defense budget. It will be slashed as never before. It’s impossible to establish a welfare state without significant cuts to the defense budget, which is full of extra padding. Some of the threats facing Israel have disappeared, some of the fear-mongering is unwarranted. The defense budget will have to shrink accordingly. The Israel Defense Forces, most of whose adversaries are penniless, doesn’t need to have every weapons system developed somewhere in the world.

The coronavirus pandemic has taught us that a generous health budget is important to our security no less than submarines are. Education, infrastructure and welfare are crying out for budgets, which are going instead to pointless defense projects. A country in which disabled people are supposed to support themselves on a monthly allowance of 3,200 shekels ($965) is a country without pity. Bombers and submarines and bombers will gradually be replaced by agreements, which have already proven to be the best guarantee for the security of this state. These agreements are more attainable than what we’ve been led to believe.

After that, the 31,000 asylum seekers remaining in the country will be granted citizenship, and state and religion will be separated: public transportation on Shabbat and civil marriage in one fell swoop, and voila, a different Israel: A more open and liberal country, less violent and cruel, much more moral and receptive to the international community. The compensation from the world, including the Arab world, will be generous. It’s enough to recall what happened after the Oslo Accords were signed. Now Israel will be free to consider its future. It will find that the two-state solution, which it has trumpeted for 30 years, is no longer viable, and it will realize that it must offer a different solution.

For the first time in its history, Israel will begin to talk about equality. It will be a long process, painful to some Jews and a few Palestinians, but it is inevitable. In the new atmosphere, we will need to discuss abolishing the nation-state law and the law of return and passing new, egalitarian legislation, leading to the first democratic election to be held between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

It may all seem utopian or dystopian, but it’s likely to be more feasible than it seems. To make it happen we need a courageous left that will begin the conversation.

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