Opinion

Israel’s Opposition Is So Depressing

The opposition had the opportunity to create a formative moment that would lead to change. Instead, it backed down and continues to disintegrate

File photo: Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay and opposition chief Tzipi Livni speak at a press conference in October, 2018.
Meged Gozani

Great things happen in a single moment of a spontaneous uprising, accompanied by a declaration that enough is enough, and we’re not playing any longer. For example, during Culture Minister Miri Regev’s bizarre press conference.

Regev makes a mockery of herself with every passing day, and who I am to disturb he? But in one moment of fury, when they were told that they couldn’t ask questions at the end of the press conference, journalists rose and said, that’s it, we aren’t extras in your show. And Regev gave in and allowed questions.

From now on, the journalists announced, the rules are changing – no more press conference without room for questions. One moment of anger at an unacceptable custom gave rise to a protest that changed it.

A formative event is, as we know, one of the dramatic foundations that everyone likes, which is missing in the conduct of the opposition, which is more like a story without a punch line.

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Here is an example of a hypothetical moment that could have been such a formative event, but as usual crumbled into dust:

Opposition members from Meretz and the Joint List, in cooperation with the human rights organizations B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, organized a conference called “Hebron First,” dealing with the Jewish settlement in Hebron. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein cancelled the conference, claiming that all the conference halls in the Knesset would be occupied due to the delegation of the president of the Czech Republic being present.

MK Dov Khenin did not stand around idly, and photographed at least one empty hall during the visit. What happened afterwards, you will ask, where is our formative moment in this story and when does one get all excited and feel a sense of satisfaction?

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I must disappoint you. Those who occupy the most distant back benches in the Knesset, those whom we would like to see as courageous fighters, are also the most downtrodden. They are forced to keep their heads down for fear that their draft bills won’t pass and they won’t receive cooperation, and therefore they won’t risk a quarrel with the Knesset speaker.

The organizers had the option of turning to their colleagues in the opposition and asking them to join in a protest activity in response to the cancellation. For example, informing the Knesset speaker that none of them would enter the plenum during the Czech president's speech if he didn't reverse course.

But the opposition is disintegrating. Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid is afraid that someone will identify his party with the losers in the Zionist Union, so it is clear that this is a parliamentary aristocracy that is unwilling to mingle with the Arab riffraff.

The Zionist Union is afraid of its own shadow and of being identified with the (Arab) Joint List, and Meretz is afraid of blurring the differences between it and the Zionist Union. Instead of granting its electorate moments of catharsis, the opposition is exhibiting depression and weakness.

The farce of recent days, when important opposition draft bills fell because one Zionist Union MK (Robert Tiviaev) voted with the coalition and another (Hilik Bar) has disappeared without a trace in China and refuses to listen to pleas for his return, is reminiscent in reverse of how Likud, when it had 12 pathetic seats, embittered the life of the government week after week and provided additional proof that size doesn’t necessarily matter.

In the vacuum that has been created, the public is resorting to outsourcing, and the alternative opposition is alive and kicking – outside the Knesset.

That’s why the big names of the coming election – Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz and Ehud Barak – did not emerge from the benches of the opposition. Perhaps if the public saw its MKs fighting fearlessly, declaring that enough is enough, embittering the life of this fragile coalition, it would not be so eager to vote for generals, and my fellow columnists wouldn’t be picking off flower petals as they play “he loves me, he loves me not” with our one and only leader at present, whom nobody is able to threaten.