Opinion

Israel Is a One-party State

Israelis celebrating Independence Day, Tel Aviv, May 11, 2019.
\ Moti Milrod

Dozens of electoral slates will be registered on Thursday in a false display of pluralism. Are the people polarized? Not politically. Are the elections fateful? Also an illusion. Do the elections offer two different paths? Even this is deceptive.

Israel is turning into a country with only one idea, and thus practically a one-party state. There are countless electoral lists, two blocs, right and left. It’s much ado about nothing. The differences between them are negligible, except on one issue that overshadows all others: Benjamin Netanyahu, yes or no.

Anyone jealous of the United States for having only two parties should know that there are even fewer in Israel. The distance between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump is much more significant than the one between Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Ehud Barak. When the main goal is to merge parties (before the elections) and unity (after them), the chasm is clearly no chasm, the gap is no gap. Only the emptiness is indeed emptiness.

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Not that there aren’t any differences. There are rhetorical ones. One person is vocal about his racism and is even proud of it, while another covers it up. One person pays lip service to universal values like justice, equality, peace and international law, while another disparages it. But take away the slogans, and there are no differences, only a personal dispute. Look at how easily the parties merge nowadays. The only obstacle is who will be placed where on the Knesset list. No one bothers discussing the rest. Parties without platforms and electoral lists without direction unify easily, just fix the problem of rank.

Why is unity the goal anyway, and for what? At the end of all the talk about unity and unions, uniformity awaits. Like the Tzav Piyus (Duty of Civility) campaign by which secular Jews always consider the feelings of religious Jews, so unity is lining up behind the right. That’s how it is when the right, even the extreme right, is considered proper and the left, even the moderate left, a curse.

The next Knesset will once again have an absolute, totalitarian majority for one direction, excluding all others. Over 100 of the 120 lawmakers will be Zionists, and a shockingly similar number are supporters of the occupation. There is no such majority in any democracy.

Zionism is an ideology like any other: You can be for or against it, or think it’s time is past. But not in Israel. A Jewish Israeli cannot be a non-Zionist. Zionism is a mandatory religion. This is the No. 1 instance of religious coercion around here.

No one tries to clarify what the meaning of Zionism is today. It’s a holy cow. No party dares challenge it, modernize it or oppose it, save for the Haredim – most of who are loyal Zionists in practice – and the Arabs, who somehow are allowed. Even more amazing is the wall-to-wall support for continuing the occupation. Except for the Joint List, no party raises the banner of war on the occupation as its lead banner. Running with Ehud Barak, Meretz can no longer fit this description; the Labor Party never did.

When everyone is a Zionist supporting the occupation, or at least isn’t proposing to end it, no real differences of opinion remain. Everyone even agrees on the wars here, at least when they’re getting started. And even the banner that the center-left is trying to wave, the banner of the battle for democracy and preservation of the judicial system, is the banner of hypocrites. Supporters of the occupation have no right to speak of democracy, nor of the independence of the courts, which approved in frighteningly routine fashion the defense establishment’s request to destroy 70 apartments in East Jerusalem, and none of the holy guardians on the courts opened their mouth.

The Israeli elections are an entertainment, like all the other entertainments on television. The media raise artificial tension about who will win and who will be thrown out, like on any reality show. The results, too, will be as fateful as the results of those absurd quiz shows. Just for sake of change, there is a need here for politicians who have something to offer.