Opinion

Shut Up Already About Mergers

Ehud Barak speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, July 2, 2019.
Moti Milrod

The Zionist left knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff – it will always choose the chaff. That’s what happens when everything is empty, when there’s no worldview, when there’s no answer to fateful questions, when there are no real solutions and no major difference between you and the right.

This is something the left must obscure, and it’s highly skilled at doing so – it runs to the sidelines. There, it can dress up as the left, sound pathetic battle cries, feel good about itself, mount the barricades.

But it mounts the barricades over the most trivial of issues. It avoids the truly fateful issue like fire, lest it be revealed in all its shame. About that issue, it has nothing to say aside from lip service, talking points, slogans and hypocrisy, coming as it does from the mouths of those principally responsible for the occupation.

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In the last election, the Zionist left chose hatred of Netanyahu as its flagship issue. If the hated enemy would only disappear, everything would be great. But in the current campaign, hatred of Netanyahu has waned a bit; there’s already talk about sitting in a joint government with him.

Instead, religious coercion, the greatest danger facing Israel, has been thrown into the ring. A bizarre education minister proposes conversion therapy for gays; it’s the end of the world. Soldiers were returned to their base on Shabbat because of the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, and in one town, a secular school has become a religious one; it’s a holy war, in neutral. Left-wing spokespeople, who lack the courage to deal with the presence of the occupation – besides which every other issue is utterly marginal – declaim fire-breathing speeches about the new national threat.

The fact that Israel was an incomparably more religious country under the Labor Party’s precursor, Mapai – without a store open on Shabbat or a movie theater open on Shabbat eve – doesn’t change a thing. We’re in the midst of a heroic battle. Religious coercion stirs the liberal left’s blood; it’s trembling with passion, frothing at the mouth.

It loathes the ultra-Orthodox almost as much as it does Netanyahu, and this hatred is wrapped in hypocritical concern for the well-being of democracy. But a party named Democratic Israel ignores the occupation, as if Israel could even be called a democracy when it has an evil dictatorship in its backyard.

Now the Zionist left is preoccupied with mergers. Who will run together with whom? It’s a world war. Two and a half Knesset seats with zero ideology are seeking partners for a joint ticket. It’s been a long time since the left busied itself with inanities like this.

Ehud Barak together with Meretz MK Esawi Freige would completely upend the situation. Meretz together with Barak, Amir Peretz’s Labor without either of them, Peretz with Orli Levi-Abekasis, and where (gasp!) will Stav Shaffir be? We’re waiting with bated breath. There’s a week left until Knesset slates must be finalized, and by then, you and I will have changed the world.

In this vacuum, devoid of all content, any merger is obviously possible. Barak will apologize and become the hero of the Arabs; warriors against Netanyahu’s corruption will whitewash Barak’s dirty connections; Avigdor Lieberman has become the left’s hero. The end justifies any means.

But what is that end? What is the left’s goal, aside from getting rid of Netanyahu? Why is it important that the left not lose Knesset seats when there is no plan – not from the left, and obviously not from its twin, the center?

The left wants to end religious coercion. Wonderful, how comforting. Also to preserve the Supreme Court so it can continue legitimizing the crimes of the occupation. But what else? Will it end the siege of the Gaza Strip? Will it freeze construction in the settlements? Will it stop soldiers from routinely shooting children, as has been happening recently, without anyone being punished?

Will Israel continue deporting seekers of justice from overseas? Will it stop its grotesque intelligence war against the BDS movement? Will we once again invade Gaza, as the Zionist left knows how to do better than anyone?

These are the issues that, more than any other, will determine Israel’s character. Yet the Zionist left hasn’t made a peep about them. It has nothing to say about them. It hasn’t yet had time; it has mergers to do right now.

Vote for them. They’re our hope. Just let Yaya Fink, who left Labor for Barak, find a place to call home.