Opinion |

The Israeli Right Is Beyond Repair

It is impossible to retain the occupied territories by means of annexation, variations on apartheid or the status quo of military occupation while continuing to yack about a Jewish and democratic state

Uri Misgav
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A demonstration against the demolition of nine houses in the settlement of Ofra, February 5, 2017.
A demonstration against the demolition of nine houses in the settlement of Ofra, February 5, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Uri Misgav

Israel’s right wing cannot be repaired. It is irredeemable. All of the calls and attempt to fix it were doomed to failure. As soon as it signed a dark covenant with fascism and populism, it became incurable. Fascism and populism are like the black holes in the universe, constantly expanding and devouring their environment. The attempt to reserve them for the occasional flirtation, during an election or to achieve a specific goal, is to ride the tiger. Dance with the devil, pay the price.

Tzvia Greenfield’s desperate call (Haaretz Hebrew, May 29) for principled individuals on the right suffers from naivete and perhaps also blindness. Has she been living under a rock? Such figures have come forth. They were ejected, stomped on and tarred and feathered by the Israeli equivalent of the tea party movement.

Dan Meridor, Michael Eitan and Moshe Ya’alon lost their place in Israeli politics. Benny Begin was booted from the Likud slate and returned to it by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in order to lend the party a little of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s spirit. Ever since, Begin has hovered above the Knesset like a one-man satellite. Others, such as Tzipi Livni and Moshe Kahlon, fled for their lives and founded new parties.

People such as Moshe Feiglin and Yehudah Glick, with extremist positions on the Palestinian conflict but who also choose civil liberalism, are no more than a curiosity, whose influence is negligible.

Were Jabotinsky alive today, the right would consider him a bleeding-heart liberal, and Menachem Begin a dangerous leftist. And Ariel Sharon? A traitor. Clear signs of this can be found in books of right-wing political thought. Great effort has been expended, but to great embarrassment the results have been an intellectual wasteland. Nevertheless, it is easy to detect within it the right’s fundamental problem: After 50 years of occupation, most of it in power, the right has nothing to offer but negativity. It is always “anti-.” Against “libtards,” to borrow from alt-right slang. Against “the media,” against “the tyranny of the High Court of Justice,” against “the elites,” against “foreign funding” (unless it comes from Sheldon Adelson, Joseph Gutnick or Christian evangelicals). It has no positive agenda.

No way has been found to square the circle. It is impossible to retain the occupied territories by means of annexation, variations on apartheid or the status quo of military occupation while continuing to yack about a Jewish and democratic state. It is impossible, morally and practically.

The frustration and emptiness can only be discharged in hatred, persecution, incitement and defamation. And these are becoming increasingly common, in keeping with the best historical models of fascism and populism.

Those hoping to heal the right might look to Germany and Britain, where ruling parties on the respectable and responsible right have somehow managed to find a middle ground. But it won’t happen in Israel for a variety of reasons, one of the main ones being the Israeli right’s reliance on religious, sometimes even messianic, ultranationalism. When the supreme source of authority is not the state, when democracy and human rights are accorded less respect than tombs and clods of earth, there is no formula that would enable a “soft,” “moderate” or “pragmatic” right — or any other fantasy.

The sole political effort must be directed into creating a powerful, attractive alternative. Anyone who chooses to continue to live here does not have the privilege of giving up. Existence is pointless without resistance to the dark and evil.

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