Opinion

The Only Answer to Netanyahu's Conservative Clique: A Liberal Alliance

איור "דור חדש"כל מיני ידיים מונפות
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Let’s assume that you believe we need to protect nature before our planet is destroyed. So you make the effort to recycle a few bottles and newspapers. You even checked once what goes in which recycling bin, or at least meant to. But at the same time, your annoying neighbor who is always making a racket doesn’t separate his trash at all. One day you (just happened to) peek into the dumpster after he left and discovered to your astonishment that this shameless egotist has been tossing in toxic lead.

Can you currently imagine an effective environmental campaign that isn’t global? Of course not. It’s easy to understand that environmental hazards cross the boundaries we’ve drawn on maps. You can’t save the planet without partners to the cause, and opponents damage that joint effort. Which makes it easy to see why the rise of Green parties has become a global trend.

It’s less easy to understand how other political processes occurring around us are equally global and also transcend borders. Even worse, when such matters are spotted, each side hastens to issue superficial condemnation of the other camp for cooperating with “foreigners” rather than admitting that this is the name of the game, and the goal is to outplay one’s ideological adversary.

As a result, while left-wing organizations in Israel are frequently on the defensive for “talkingf abroad,” for years the Israeli right wing and the settlers have been systematically forging strategic alliances both political and economic with the growing far right in Europe and with the evangelicals in the United States, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. These seemingly far-flung alliances directly affect our lives in Israel: from thwarting or advancing the possibility of the two-state solution to the country’s policy towards Iran. But beyond that, they also affect the “shared values” that Israel seeks increasingly to share with conservative forces around the world.

From China and Russia to the Arab world and parts of Europe and the United States, the concept that progress and economic advancement necessarily usher in democratization and peace is blowing up in theoreticians’ faces. The right wing has been able to spot this and bet on the right horses in the “clash of civilizations.” It’s no coincidence that Donald Trump, Hungary’s Orban and Brazil’s Bolsonaro are such good buddies with Benjamin Netanyahu and work in similar ways. Netanyahu personally as well as civic groups have understood the need for a conservative alliance and worked hard to create it. They have been reaping its benefits.

But the Israeli left and center have yet to grasp that there are political battles that can’t be sustained if they’re cut off from the international scene and that a progressive alliance is needed to counter the conservative alliance. It needs to go beyond financial donations, which have mistakenly been the focus of discussion. Nor is it just about international pressure, which hasn’t been up to the test in many cases. What’s needed is unapologetic networking to learn from one another and advance common goals.

The promotion of the essential principals of democracy, such as peace and freedom – including defending the rule of law and human rights, preventing religious coercion, humanitarian solutions for refugees and fighting sexism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination – is not unique to the Israeli left. There is much to learn and to teach – in Hong Kong or Hungary, Poland or Brazil, America or Russia, Turkey or the Philippines. And between liberal Israelis and Palestinians as well.

Without a worldwide alliance with forces that are currently in the opposition, comparable to that on the right, we can forget about change. Netanyahu nurtured the relationship with Trump and Jared Kushner and others in their circle long before they came to power. How many people in Israel are nurturing ties with the next Democratic president of the United States? And with liberal Christians or even with liberal Jewry? Too too few are.

It wasn’t always this way. After the trauma of World War II, it was widely realized that international mechanisms were necessary to prevent the outbreak of another such war. Netanyahu once said that the left forgot what it meant to be Jewish, but portions of the left have forgotten how to be universalist. The time has come to move beyond rote denunciation of Netanyahu’s conservative alliances and do more to promote alternative liberal alliances.