The Only Woman Who Can Save Israel From Fascism

Secular people, liberals, leftists and just ordinary folks who don’t want to live in a country that will establish reeducation camps need a fearless leader.

A demonstration in support of a soldier suspected in shooting dead a prone Palestinian, Tel Aviv, March 31, 2016.
Ilan Assayag

These words were relevant even before reports on the police probe of opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog; the probe does not affect them at all. In times when reality is escalating at a dizzying rate, when the dissolution of values is a national norm and a soldier who shoots a helpless terrorist in the head is a martyr, the democratic camp needs a leader like air to breathe – or a blood transfusion.

Secular people, liberals, leftists and just ordinary folks who don’t want to live in a country that will establish reeducation camps have been wandering around for years like a frightened and scattered flock. A pincer movement, including an attack by the government establishment, backed up by rioting groups, militias and civil cells such as Im Tirtzu, Ad Kan or La Familia, have turned them into a persecuted and beaten minority, pushed rudely beyond the boundaries of legitimacy. They need a fearless leader.

History shows that anti-democratic forces are held in check largely by opposing forces. Isaac Herzog – suspect, guilty or pure as the driven snow – cannot give his camp what it needs. He should be released as soon as possible from his position.

Among all the generals and security experts sitting undecided at home, recuperating from disputes with others in power, from cabinet bickering and who from time to time emerge for prestigious prime-time interviews (which include generic statements that say nothing), there is at the moment only one person who can accomplish the task. Warning: This option is not intended for those who want to continue to lament the rise of fascism while waiting for the ideal leader. Rather, it is for those who want to continue living a normal life here, or at least hoping to.

Shelly Yacimovich is the only opposition member today who can influence the agenda and be heard over the growling of Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman and former Yisrael Beiteinu MK Sharon Gal. This could be seen over the past week. The natural gas plan, wages of senior functionaries, the release of imprisoned former President Moshe Katsav. Whether or not you like her positions, is there any other opposition politician (who is not accompanied by banners of the extremist Kahane Chai movement) whose voice is heard so frequently and with such magnitude?

Tomer Appelbaum

She is still too deeply ensconced in her economic-social affairs-feminist comfort zone, which is currently of secondary importance. Her libido is entirely there, and it must indeed move to other places, but in times like these we should welcome any libido at all in the peace camp. As opposed to the pale, statesman-like mumblings of her faction leader, afraid to anger the ever increasingly herd-like consensus, when Yacimovich makes a political statement – or one about the assault on the courts – at least there’s an exclamation point at the end of the sentence.

The biggest question about Yacimovich is whether she has overcome her major weakness as far as human relations go. She lost her bid for the role of party leader in November 2013 not because anyone wanted Herzog so much, but because the party did not want her. She managed to quarrel with every level of the party. The old-timers detested her, the moshavim and kibbutzim felt excluded and some younger people were also insulted. There were insulted people wherever you looked.

Today too, her impressive return to center stage was more a personal operation than a team effort. This is not just a party or image matter that can be resolved by “advisers” who make a good living in made-up jobs. This is a deep personality issue.

Can a person overcome psychological obstacles? Can a person set aside damaging and irritating behavior patterns and take advantage of positive potential? That is the big question that the best minds in psychology and social sciences grapple with. For the sake of the survival of democracy in Israel, we must hope that the answer is yes.