Opinion

Israel’s Left Can’t Win When the Shooting With Iran Starts

The left is so afraid of being accused of treason that it doesn’t even try to argue that there’s a link between the never-ending conflict with the Palestinians and Iran’s and Hezbollah’s desire to destroy us

Labor Party chief Avi Gabbay at a meeting with Zionist Union MKs,February 2018.
Emil Salman

The Israeli left is in trouble. In our overheated situation it finds itself time after time in a position of restraint that contradicts human nature. After all, anyone who gets a slap in the face – and the downing of an F-16 in the north was such a slap – returns it in spades, while the left talks about “preventing escalation.”

The right, without hesitating, adopts a belligerent policy and seeks revenge. It claims that Iran and Syria must be taught a lesson they won’t forget; they must be struck much harder than has been the case. The left, meanwhile, explains that we mustn’t heat up the sector because “neither side wants war.”

And then the right-wing spokesmen continue to attack Iran for daring to send a drone on an espionage mission (something that we do twice a week), and are angry at the Syrians for daring to bring down an Israeli plane that “only” came to bomb. The left, meanwhile, seeks calm and says we have to switch to diplomacy, so it’s seen as a coward while the right is seen as a courageous fighter.

Interesting is that the right profited twice from its approach. When Syria remained silent and let Israel bomb without reacting, that was clear proof that the right’s policy of deterrence was working. And when the other side reacted, fired missiles and even shot down a plane, the right also profited, because only it is capable of returning the blow big-time.

In the current situation Israelis ask themselves: On whom should we rely during a military confrontation – top ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, who will strike with full force, or top opposition leaders like Avi Gabbay, Yair Lapid and Zehava Galon, who will show restraint? The answer in the opinion polls is unequivocal: The nation is moving toward the right.

Therefore, the more complicated the situation gets, the more Iran threatens us, the more Bashar Assad strengthens, the more Hezbollah arms itself and the more the territories burn, the stronger the right gets. It has built an image under which only it can save us from all the bad guys surrounding us, until we’ve completely forgotten that it was the right that brought us to the current bad situation.

And the left is so afraid of being accused of treason that it doesn’t even try to argue that there’s a connection between the never-ending conflict with the Palestinians and Iran’s and Hezbollah’s hatred and desire to destroy us. It’s true that Iran has an extremist Shi’ite government that considers us infidels who deserve to die, and Hezbollah thinks the same.

But if we reached a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians and lived in peace alongside a Palestinian state, the main excuse for destroying us would disappear and the Arab world would sign a peace treaty with us. As a result, relations with Iran would also improve. After all, it’s clear that the harsh pictures of the occupation of the West Bank and the humanitarian disaster in Gaza are rousing the entire Muslim world against us.

Along with the events in the north, the acts of murder in the West Bank are also strengthening the right. Recently two men, Itamar Ben Gal of Har Bracha and Raziel Shevach of Havat Gilad, were murdered. Their families claimed they were killed only because they were Jews. No connection to the occupation. No connection to the takeover of land that doesn’t belong to them.

As far as they’re concerned, the settlements of Har Bracha and Havat Gilad are just as much part of Israel as Tel Aviv suburb Petah Tikva. As far as they’re concerned, these places are the fulfillment of the divine promise to Abraham, so it’s not clear why their neighbors aren’t receiving them with love and willingly becoming the hewers of wood and drawers of water of the Chosen People.

This right-wing perception has become deeply rooted among the public, so the acts of terror and murder don’t make Israelis think about the price of the occupation. Rather, they do just the opposite: They turn every killing into a lever for expanding the settlements, which is what happened with Havat Gilad, which has been legalized in the wake of the murder.

In that way the right is leading us deeper into an endless conflict with our neighbors, and to living by the sword. But amazingly, it profits from this at the polls.