So What if the Israeli Left Is Right?

Hamas does not endanger Israel’s existence. What does endanger it is the perpetuation of, and return to, the policies that led Israel and Gaza to July 2014 in the first place.

Tal Niv
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An anti-war rally in Haifa on July 19, 2014.Credit: Rami Shllush
Tal Niv

The poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: “From the place where we are right, flowers will never grow in the spring.” Amichai, who fought in the War of Independence, thought that being dogmatic to the point of death did not allow room for forgiveness and rebirth. He thought that being right was not everything.

It is impossible to expect that a situation in which soldiers fall in battle will give rise to a deep understanding of the limitations, and danger, of using military force to the extent it is being used in Gaza. Neither can people who are leaning more and more to the right in any case be expected to lean toward the center now and realize the importance, in a democracy, of holding different opinions.

Is Israel doomed to deteriorate into the bad and dangerous situation in which it has no left wing and its right wing is further to the right than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? In these days of an almost non-existent opposition, a right-wing majority in the Knesset and a public that is turning its back on the Palestinians’ suffering, will Netanyahu be able to fend off the extremists, led by Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, in his own camp?

The most significant, immediate and visible lesson from what is being done in Israel and Gaza in July 2014 is that without an agreement with the Palestinians that includes Hamas, without a vision of economic rebirth for the Palestinians’ benefit that includes mutual trade and not only employment, and without the cessation of the divide-and-conquer policy pitting the West Bank against Gaza, Israel will become a quasi-democracy that lives by its sword.

Hamas does not endanger Israel’s existence. What does endanger it is the perpetuation of, and return to, the policies that led Israel and Gaza to July 2014 in the first place. Haughtiness is a danger to Israel. Without an idea for a comprehensive solution and a worthwhile and fair proposal from Israel, Gaza’s inhabitants will keep on digging tunnels for attack and for economic purposes. The assertions that Israel withdrew from Gaza and that it was the Palestinians who chose to invest in tunnels instead of greenhouses does not serve Israel’s long-term interests. Even though we do not covet their land, life alongside Gaza will go on.

Netanyahu seems incapable of stopping the process of internal rot within Israel, which includes the erasure of empathy for the other, the erasure of the concept of equal citizenship and the erasure of secularism. But it is possible that the simple fact that the policies of the Israeli right wing are what brought us to this point, and that the Israeli right is determined to survive politically, will result in Netanyahu’s standing with the democratic forces.

The Israeli left — which believes in empathy for the other, in union, in the idea of pluralism and its practical application — has been forcibly paralyzed. But it still has its role, and its day will come. In the meantime, the left must be practical. After all, from the moment Hamas stops fighting and we stop using the force that left our neighbors on the border stricken, wounded, orphans, bereaved and crushed, Netanyahu will have to redirect resources in order to cope with ideological rigidity and calcification, and with the nationalist-racist current that means a complete misunderstanding of our historical purpose.

We call, with shining eyes, upon our security cooperation with the Americans, who for all practical purposes paid for our Iron Dome but do not understand that we must invite the Palestinians to take shelter in its shade. The possibility of living alongside the Palestinians has to do with the ability to live with the Palestinians in Israel. Again and again and again, the Israeli left wing is told that we are right, but from the place where we are right, flowers will never grow in the spring. The left wing realizes this, and if Netanyahu does not, he will not be able to go on. He will not be elected again.

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