Israel's Left Is Acting Like It Really Doesn't Want Any Votes

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Democratic Union lawmakers Tamar Zandberg, Nitzan Horowitz, Stav Shaffir, Ilan Gilon and Yair Golan arrive at a consultation with President Reuven Rivlin, September 23, 2019.
Democratic Union lawmakers Tamar Zandberg, Nitzan Horowitz, Stav Shaffir, Ilan Gilon and Yair Golan arrive at a consultation with President Reuven Rivlin, September 23, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

What the heck is happening in the Israeli left? The deadline for parties to submit their candidate slates is less than a week away, and the amount of scheming and bickering there long ago dwarfed the number of Knesset seats at stake. It seems as if our leftist politicians have simply given up all hope, or pretense, of getting their act together.

Now they are looking to Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, hoping he will be so kind as to stick his hand into the wading pool in which they are drowning, pull them out and sit them down nicely one next to the other. Ostensibly, the goal is unity, but the whole thing looks more like a messy polygamous divorce, while no new wedding bells are ringing.

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In a nutshell: Amir Peretz does not want to merge Labor-Gesher with Meretz. The ultimate proof of this could be seen in the pathetic statement he issued calling for Kahol Lavan, Labor and Meretz to unite, knowing it was about as likely as Stav Shaffir being named minister of transparency in the next government.

In Meretz, Tamar Zandberg, Mossi Raz and Esawi Freige pressed party chairman Nitzan Horowitz to dissolve Democratic Union in light of its poor showing in September. In practice, it was a demand to demote Shaffir and Yair Golan from their No. 2 and No. 3 slots on the slate in favor of Meretz candidates. Horowitz, who is not crazy about Shaffir, decided to keep the cooperative and easygoing Golan in place and give Shaffir’s slot to Zandberg, who in the April election brought Meretz just above the electoral threshold.

Enough with the eye rolls. This is politics, and the parties on the right aren’t exactly brimming with mutual affection these days either. Figures like Bezalel Smotrich and Rafi Peretz are lashing out at one another, and not always over the question of who is more racist or homophobic, but mainly over matters of ego and jockeying for position. But considering the precarious positions of Meretz and Labor, their MKs’ behavior suggests such a sharp disconnect from reality that it makes one wonder whether these folks really have what it takes to be public servants.

Another possibility is that their behavior, with all the infighting and scheming over the shrinking pile of spoils, in fact reflects a death wish. There is no rational explanation for the behavior of the parties of the Zionist left, besides a deliberate attempt at self-sabotage. They are driving their voters, only a small number of whom still vote for them with pride in their heart and any kind of ideological fervor, to place a different slip in the ballot box. Please, don’t vote for us!

Many leftists are no longer willing to support them, even as a pity vote or a strategic vote for the sake of the bloc. These parties have thoroughly exhausted their historic line of credit – Labor as the party that built the country and Meretz as the pioneer in the struggle for human and civil rights. What they’re selling now appears to be nothing but petty backstabbing.

And all this when the two alternative slips that will be available the third time around are giving leftists much less pause than in the past. First there’s Kahol Lavan, which has done quite well in its mission to erode Benjamin Netanyahu’s power. Gantz has shown fortitude and an ability to learn, and for the Netanyahu-haters camp, there’s no reason to go looking for something better than Yair Lapid, who stood firm against all the pressures and saved his comrades from succumbing to Netanyahu’s deceit. And then there’s the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, which offers leftists the chance to cast a romantic vote that implies solidarity with the minority that is under appalling attack from the ruling party. These are two symbolic assets of no small significance, and both certainly seem much more enticing than Labor and Meretz do right now.

And thus we have reached a situation in which leftists are ready to vote for someone like Zvi Hauser, who outflanks Netanyahu on the right, or to feel good about themselves when they vote for Balad and the Islamic Movement. This is what the end looks like.

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