Israel's Extreme Center Party

The extreme center’s vision consists of 'all of us together against the lunatic right and the moonstruck left.'

Emil Salman

It’s not the moonstruck right or the delusional left; it’s not even the ordinary right or the banal left. The extreme center party sits right in the middle, in the very center of the center, smack dab on that imaginary line where the right meets the left. Members of the extreme center crowd onto this line with great care, like obsessive compulsives who are convinced that any minor deviation from it will result in being struck by lightning.

There’s no difficulty identifying them. They congregate in a big clump, hold group hugs and, like sumo wrestlers, defend themselves lest they be pushed outside that holy center line. The extreme center is a religion with its own unique prayer book. Its members have no positions or opinions, nor do principles and ideologies trip off their tongues.

They derive their faith from a negative: They aren’t right-wing, so they oppose annexing territory, but they also aren’t left-wing, so they agree that it’s okay to build in the settlement blocs. They, of course, oppose Jewish provocations on the Temple Mount, but they’re in favor of a show of force against Muslims when the latter throw stones at right-wing extremists and don’t even balk at stripping them of citizenship.

Members of the extreme center party are very careful not to call Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a terrorist. But it’s clear to them that he isn’t a partner. They are convinced that Israel has already offered everything to the rejectionist Palestinians, but they’re willing to offer the same thing again. After all, they want peace, and therefore they aren’t bothered by the contradictions in their positions.

For instance, when Tzipi Livni says she’s willing to hold negotiations with Abbas but not with Hamas, her words appear to be dictated by amnesia. She has forgotten that there’s a Palestinian unity government, and so anyone who speaks with this Palestinian government is in any case talking with Hamas.

The extreme center has cracked the code for solving the conflict with the Palestinians. It’s not necessary to speak with either Abbas or Hamas; the diplomatic miracle cure lies in unilateral withdrawal. The Israeli government will determine the country’s borders and withdraw the Israel Defense Forces and the settlers to these lines. A super idea. That, however, is exactly what Abbas wants from Israel: Draw us a border, he begs. But Abbas, as noted, isn’t in the equation.

The extreme right doesn’t recognize the word “border”; the “moonstruck” left, or perhaps it’s the “delusional” left, sings hymns to a binational state; and the banal left is willing to support a Palestinian state without drawing its borders. Thus all that’s left for the extreme center is to offer a non-solution, without negotiations and without Palestinian consent. But it’ll be okay: The center line won’t be broken.

The holy pillar of fog also guides the extreme center on the Iranian issue. It supports an agreement with Iran, but on condition that it be a “good agreement.” That sounds reasonable. But are the center’s loyalists willing to attack Iran if there isn’t an agreement, or if the agreement is a bad one? The right, of every stripe, has an answer. The self-righteous Order of the Extreme Center has an interesting formula: “using force only as a last resort.” In other words, the right will decide when the time has come to attack and the spineless center will support it.

And there’s another very important matter that the extreme center party wants to stress: It’s in favor of the law defining Israel as the Jewish people’s nation-state, but against discrimination. It’s against defining the state as a Jewish state, because it’s unnecessary, the timing is terrible and the state’s image will be damaged. It views the existing level of discrimination as optimal: There shouldn’t be any more of it, and also not any less.

The extreme center is forbidden to express vehement views on any subject. In its department store, all options must remain on the table. Its vision consists of “all of us together against the lunatic right and the moonstruck left.” One enormous bloc against all the scum. A warm, fuzzy bloc that will preserve the middle of the road. It sounds wonderful. The only problem, as American columnist Jim Hightower noted in the title of his 1997 book, is that “There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.”