The Disintegrating Left

'A real opposition must avoid three major destructive processes,' all of which are currently being practiced by the 'left-wing opposition'

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Left wing Israelis hold signs for Gaza as they demonstrate in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2018.
Left wing Israelis hold signs for Gaza as they demonstrate in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2018.Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Tzvia Greenfield
Tzvia Greenfield

Political frustration is a structural component of the democratic form of government. Menachem Begin passed the frustrating test of being the eternal opposition for many years by exhibiting persistence and self-control.

It’s possible that this is one of the primary reasons that today’s right-wing government still hasn’t collapsed, despite people’s reservations about and the damning evidence against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many of his associates. The number of years that the Likud has held power in Israel has long since passed those of the Mapai-Alignment-Labor’s control, but despite this depressing fact the democratic challenge requires the opposition to continue to stand up against the government it opposes, without losing its internal integrity or belief in the justice of its causes.

A real opposition must avoid three major destructive processes: Making a constant effort to join the ruling coalition at almost any price; disintegrating in despair into small groups whose goals are generally more limited and immediate than the main objectives of a large opposition; and developing a fierce hostility not only towards the ruling coalition and its ideological positions, but also towards the state in general and its residents, of whom a large number obviously voted for the incumbent government.

The current left-wing opposition is unfortunately making all three mistakes.

The efforts of the former chairman of the Labor-Zionist Union party to joint Netanyahu’s extreme-right government are still remembered well. The great concern is that this custom of the left surrendering to the right’s rule in exchange for supposed honors and crumbs of influence is liable to repeat itself.

The second destructive process, of the camp’s breaking down into small groups whose goals are very limited, can also be seen today. What began with the founding of Meretz decades ago continued with the Pensioners Party and later with Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu. All these parties were fueled by the disintegrating Labor party, and this cannibalization is reaching new heights with the founding of Orli Levi-Abekasis’ party and the expected launching of a party by Michael Biton. Because of the competition between them over the same pool of voters moved by social issues, these parties probably won’t even exceed the electoral threshold.

Although the first process, of trying to join the government at any price, explains to a large extent the loss of confidence in the Labor party, instead of showing resilience and staying within the larger mother party, many left-wing voters are exhibiting historic frivolousness and irresponsibility that will ensure the continued rule of the right.

The third process into which the leftist camp should not have been drawn is the development of a deep hostility not only toward the values of the right, but to the state itself, its basic values and the reasons for its existence. The inability to distinguish between the country and the government is destructive to the left because it deters moderate voters. A similar disaster is seemingly taking place in the United States.

It is on this background that Yesh Atid was founded and at this point it may be the only party capable of ousting the Likud and changing Israel’s direction. So long as left-leaning voters continue to dissipate among the small social-oriented parties and do not strengthen their mother party or Yesh Atid, they will essentially be ensuring the continued destruction of Israel’s democracy.

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