Israel's Center-left Must Seize the Day After the Awful 2015

We have to make some binding New Year's resolutions: To unite our camp under inspiring leaders. To speak with Israelis out of love and respect, as equals. To offer a new vision and a new direction.

Israeli left wing activists hold flags during a peace rally in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.
AP

It was a bad year. In the first 70 days of 2015 there was hope for hope. It seemed that this time it would truly be possible to change the government and return Israel to enlightenment and sanity. But then came the seven terrible days, in which the center-left weakened and divided, while the righter-than-right got stronger and united. It wasn’t a divine decree. It wasn’t destiny. Because of human error and human weakness (ego, ego, ego), February’s promised upheaval became March’s demoralizing collapse.

Since then, as if in a horror movie, we’ve been hurtling downhill. The anti-culture of Miri Regev, the anti-democracy of Ayelet Shaked, the anti-Zionism of Uri Ariel. The moral feebleness of the arms of the state in the face of fascist phenomena like “price tag.” Under the leadership of the most illiberal government the national camp has ever raised up, Israel is losing its character.

It was a bad year. After the tragedy of the 2014 war in Gaza, it was clear to all that some sort of peace process with the Palestinians had to be renewed. It was also clear that the old peace process had died. A new, creative, third-way initiative was demanded.

But in 2015 there was no Israeli leadership to deal with the challenge, no Palestinian leadership and no international leadership. Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas and John Kerry left a diplomatic vacuum that Palestinian and Jewish zealots easily filled, and they ignited a fire around the Temple Mount. The murderers of the Dawabsheh family and the murderers of dozens of innocent Israelis set the country aflame.

The decade of quiet in the West Bank came to an end, and the deterioration accelerated, becoming a hideous specter.

It was a bad year. The nuclear agreement with Iran put off the confrontation, but ensured that the great Shi’ite power will build up its arms and cast a huge shadow over the Middle East. The Arab chaos continued to spread, turning more and more regions, not far away, into black holes of despair, killing and devastation. The human disaster area once known as Syria became an arena for a multidimensional war of the titans, enabling Russia to set up a strategic base nearby and flex its muscles as a regional power.

In the short term, some of these trends are convenient for Israel. They show that Israel’s relative strength is greater than that of all its neighbors, and enable it to go on living in a coma. But life as the Rock of Gibraltar in a raging ocean of violent, sudden and relentless change is dangerous. The strategic shift of the past year proved that there is no quiet and there will be no quiet and that we must prepare now for the waves that will hit us sooner or later.

So when we kiss each other tonight at midnight, there will be nothing to look back on with nostalgia. Politically, diplomatically and strategically, the outgoing year was a scorched one. Morally, spiritually and in terms of national identity, it was a dark year.

But that’s just the reason that over the next day we must make a number of binding New Year’s resolutions: Not to become addicted to despair and helplessness. Not to continue with the standstill and the rut. To try and unite the Israeli center-left under a sharp, vigorous, inspiring leadership. To try and speak with Israelis out of love and respect, as equals. To offer a new vision and a new direction. To understand that what went all wrong at the start of the year can be fixed by the end of the decade.

And not to say “the day will come,” but to seize the day. Because we cannot afford many more years like the bad year of 2015. If we want to generate change in 2018 or 2017, we must begin in 2016. Tomorrow.