Opinion

Kahol Lavan Did Their Job

Kahol Lavan leaders on election night in Tel Aviv, September 17, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

In an op-ed published last week in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz, Dmitry Shumsky accused me of seeking to eradicate the Israeli left. As I see it, the dissolution of the left in Israel has already been determined by history, and after writing an entire book on the subject there is hardly any need for me to add much. But since Shumsky assailed me personally, I’ll nevertheless respond to his arguments.

I believe that the left, as Shumsky and others represent it, in effect destroyed itself; by turning voters against it with its increasing extremism, it rendered itself politically irrelevant. Since the 1980s the ideological left has argued vociferously against the legitimacy of a Zionist Israeli state, or even a Jewish one. Instead of understanding the complex security and emotional aspects underlying the conflict with the Palestinians, many in the left became alienated from the Jewish population’s fundamental sense of identity. No wonder Israeli society eventually turned its back on these people, who did not come out in defense of its elementary right to exist without a constant burden of guilt over the desire to live.

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Haaretz Weekly Ep. 41Haaretz

The ideological left, represented by Shumsky and others, found it convenient to portray the entire Israeli public as supporters of the extreme right, which seeks to perpetuate the occupation and the policy of apartheid; as if the leaders of Habayit Hayehudi express the true aspirations of most Israelis, leaving no hope for the Jewish state and with Israel fated to end up as a fascist society that does not deserve to exist. The massive movement of voters from right-wing parties to Kahol Lavan proved the lie of this propaganda. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may symbolize the right’s corruption, but in contrast to Shumsky’s claims, Kahol Lavan poses an ideological and practical alternative not to the whims of one person, but rather to an entire dangerous worldview.

Thank goodness for Yair Lapid, Ofer Shelah and their colleagues in Yesh Atid who did not give up and, despite being heaped with scorn, slander and contempt — partly by the right but mainly from the left — persisted in their struggle in their attempt to lay the foundations for a Zionist alternative to the government of Netanyahu and his extremist partners. An alternative that would replace the anti-Zionism that has swept the left and prevent Netanyahu and the messianic right from casting Israel into an abyss of deception, incitement and the destruction of democracy. Thank God as well for the charm and wisdom of Benny Gantz, who realized that without Lapid and without Yesh Atid’s focused ideas and sophisticated political machine, he could have ended up like Yigael Yadin and his Dash party, or Moshe Ya’alon, who joined up with Gantz in January after opinion after opinion polls showed his Telem partu was unlikely to meet the electoral threshold running on its own. Gantz and Lapid, who joined forces out of a sense of national responsibility, have brought about a major shift.

It should be added that the left was responsible for giving Israel the catastrophe of the past five years under Netanyahu. Had it not fought the initial success of Yesh Atid in every possible manner, it would not have created, as a result of its influence on the media, an empty-suit social rights hero in the form of Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party was established in 2015 at the expense of Yesh Atid. Kulanu sustained Netanyahu in power, enabling the right’s endless incitement campaign against the judiciary. Intellectual honesty and careful consideration would have saved Israel from this downslide.

Fortunately, in this election these voices on the left had no impact. The Haaretz editorial board also recognized what was required, lending its support. Kahol Lavan did what was required of it. Let’s hope it succeeded.