Opinion

The Zionist Left in Its Full Feebleness

They’re gleefully anticipating Netanyahu’s downfall, but have no alternative to offer Israelis.

MK Amir Peretz, December 19, 2016.
Emil Salman

The weary Zionist left is rejoicing. Finally Benjamin Netanyahu has been caught fair and square. God, or at least journalist Raviv Drucker, is finally on our side. Share as much as you can! The fact that Netanyahu, just like Ehud Olmert, is going to be brought down over corruption and not, say, because of his fiascos in diplomacy, security or the economy, and that he will probably be replaced by another member of the right wing — about as bad — leaves the Zionist left unperturbed. They did their bit. As far as they are concerned, Netanyahu is the enemy, not his destructive agenda.

In a certain way, the Zionist left has a point. In any case it has no alternatives to offer — not diplomatic, not economic, not social and not cultural. All it says is: Let us rule — we’ll implement the same policy, just better.

Since 1981 — the year the Communist party, Hadash, set a precedent by adopting the two-state solution, which then slowly seeped into the Zionist left, peaking in the ill-fated Oslo agreements and even making its way into Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech — the Zionist left has never presented a diplomatic alternative. This, despite the fact that it is patently obvious that the two-state solution is neither ethical nor practical any more.

In the economic realm, despite vigorous activity by Shelly Yacimovich, Stav Shaffir and Yossi Yona and Amir Peretz's planned run (again) for the leadership of the Labor Party, the Zionist left has not come out with a clear, categorical statement that exposes piggish capitalism, stripping it of the lies that embellish it (“anybody can do it!”). All the Zionist left has proposed are cosmetic changes (minimum wage, rights for temps and so on). And let’s not even get into the chilly reception the leftist leaders gave to the radical call by Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev to introduce more equitable resource allocation. They would rather perpetuate cultural stagnation, which perceives itself to be genteel and European.

In other words, the Zionist left has nothing to offer. That may be why, after announcing his plans to run (again), Amir Peretz focused on the personal in interviews he gave. I don’t like pistachio ice cream and won’t be smoking cigars in executive jets, Peretz hinted (alluding to things associated with Netanyahu). I’m one of the people, devoid of pretensions. I live in the desert town of Sderot and my wife Ahlama is the categorical opposite of Mrs. Netanyahu. The most radical diplomatic move he was prepared to commit to was to limit construction to the settlement blocs, which isn’t very far from Netanyahu's stance, apropos his bitter battle with Naftali Bennett over legitimizing construction in settlements.

But the oddest and most destructive thing is that the Zionist left does not feel it owes anybody an explanation. As far as it's concerned, the world is wrong. The Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern origin) betrayed them, the ultra-Orthodox fled from them, the settlers view them as a disaster and the Arabs dismiss them. As a veteran of the Labor movement, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, said after the 1977 political earthquake in which Likud ousted the Labor Party: “I do not respect the decision of the people. The people does not understand what it did, and will regret it.”

Instead of sitting down together and compiling a new breakthrough agenda, like for instance creating a broad political front with Israel’s Arabs; adopting the idea of a binational state in which the two entities — the Jewish and the Palestinian — live in genuine equality; or building a modern welfare state that does not suffocate private initiative, the Zionist left still limits itself to focusing on Netanyahu, correcting the misdeeds of the ruthless right and clinging to old ideas. That is not, as wiser people than myself have said, how to build a wall.