To Win, Herzog Must Convince Israelis That Peace, Prosperity Are Intertwined

Voters need to be made to realize that if not for the settlements, the huge funding that flows to the territories would instead be invested in education and welfare.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Isaac Herzog, co-leader of the Zionist Union party, gestures during an election campaign press conference in front of the foreign press in Jerusalem, on Feb. 24, 2015.Credit: AFP

An interesting question is coming up in this election campaign: How long will it take before the descendants of the Mizrahi residents of the immigrant transit camps of the 1950s get rid of the sorrow of those hard years and stop placing all the sins of Mapai at the doorstep of today’s Labor Party? How many election campaigns will it take before their grandchildren understand that taking advantage of their hatred for the left and fostering the memories of discrimination are a rude means of making them forget real discrimination, the kind that Likud’s economic policies generate, which absolve the state of responsibility for the fate of society and abandon the weak to market forces?

And by the way, does anyone know how the people being thrown out of public housing these days are going to vote? Why don’t they remember the key role Ran Cohen’s Meretz had in the Public Housing Law and the battle its current leaders are waging for same goal? And what else needs to happen here before people in Dimona and Ofakim realize that if not for the settlements on the West Bank, the huge funding that flows to the territories would instead be invested in education and welfare, their schools, enrichment activities for their kids, more math and English lessons, all of which would open the gates of the universities to them? How is it possible to let the memories of the past, hard as they are, mortgage the future?

It’s true that to this day the Labor Party has not learned how to present a credible social and economic program that makes people enthusiastic. Their security program is also limping and stuttering. It’s also true that the Labor Party cannot, or perhaps does not want to build on the experience of the second Rabin government, which invested in education and social issues more than any other government, and was also the government that, with the Oslo Accords, laid the foundations for an agreement with the Palestinians.

It’s furthermore true that Labor’s candidate for finance minister, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, a fine academic economist and a fair man, does not get people excited – neither the middle class nor in the disadvantaged neighborhoods. People don’t feel that he burns for social justice. Worse yet is the fact that their candidate for defense minister, retired Gen. Amos Yadlin, is a conformist and banal military man who has never voiced even one original idea. He is not the man to say that the Palestinian issue is much more important than the Iranian nuclear program.

The truth is that Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni should have long ago shouted it out: Israel’s existential problem is the occupied territories, because our relations with the Palestinians are what will define our future and the future of our children, not Iran. Iran, if worse comes to worst, can be bombarded; Iran’s regime could change; in any case it does not seem that, incendiary rhetoric aside, the Iranians tend blithely to take risks. In contrast, we will have to live with the Palestinians in the coming generations, and nothing will change the Israeli-Palestinian reality except the desire of Israelis to save their country from the destruction that the right is waging.

To win these elections, Zionist Union must invest in those nave people who could still follow the charlatan Yair Lapid in droves. These people must be persuaded that Zionist Union has a credible plan to reach a peace agreement as well as the desire to truly improve quality of life. In any case, it is the size of the bloc that will determine who gets a majority in the Knesset. Meretz’s support for Herzog is assured in any case, while Lapid’s support is something both Netanyahu and “brother” Naftali Bennett can buy, and not at a very high price.