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This Isn't Your Father's Likud

Uzi Baram
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Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin in Tel Aviv, 1977.
Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin in Tel Aviv, 1977.Credit: סער יעקב / לעמ
Uzi Baram

The electoral upheaval of 1977 crashed on the heads of the leaders of the Labor Party like a collapsed tower. They didn’t know how to digest the “unfairness” with which the public had treated them. They, who saw themselves as born to rule, felt they had been robbed, and had difficulty internalizing the fact that this was not only an electoral defeat but a genuine upheaval – the system collapsed and was replaced.

At the time I was elected to the Knesset for the first time – therefore I didn’t experience the sense of loss. Together with my friends, I devoted myself to the battle against Menahem Begin and his government. Our rival, the Gahal faction – a product of the merger between Begin’s Herut party and the Liberal Party headed by Simha Erlich – evinced a fighting spirit mixed with a desire for revenge.

The rivalry was harsh. Begin lost no opportunity to attack Shimon Peres, who in turn tried to fight back. And still, the battle was based on values and issues. For example, Erlich – in spite of the pressures he was under – allowed Amiram Sivan, the director general of the Finance Ministry, to retain his position, although he was a member of the Alignment (Labor and its partners). For our part we helped Begin reach a peace agreement with Egypt, enabling him to prevail against his opponents on the right, including some in his own party.

There is no similarity between the present upheaval and that one. The upheaval of 2021 did not take place due to the electoral victory of a large party, but is a result of a rare agreement among parties with diametrically opposed world views due to the need to eliminate the danger called Benjamin Netanyahu; and to put an end to the rule of malice, lies, and incitement.

Nor is there any similarity between the present opposition and the opposition at that time. Today’s opposition is willing to harm the country as long as the coalition falls. Had we behaved like that at the time, the peace agreements with Egypt would not have come about.

Today, there are no holds barred. It is not unrealistic to assume that Netanyahu would be willing to give key ministries to Arab MKs Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh and Mansour Abbas if that would enable him to form a government. He would persuade Likud and his vassals that they are preferable to ministers Gideon Sa’ar, Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. Miri Regev would ascend the Knesset dais and praise the great leader, who brings Jews and Arabs together.

My support for the government stems from the military-strategic understanding to the effect that anyone who has captured territory in urban combat must defend it in any way possible so that it won’t be restored to its previous owner. My fears that the government, out of a desire to prove how different it is, would adopt the values of Mother Theresa, have fortunately been proven groundless.

The experienced parliamentarians in the coalition have begun to understand that they must not be suckers; that they are not confronting the late and highly regarded Labor MKs Haim Tzadok and Yitzhak Navon, but rather rivals that want to eliminate them by any possible means.

Therefore, the bill to split the Likud, for example, which is designed to harm the Likud faction, is not evidence that the coalition is adopting Netanyahu’s corrupt methods, as has been claimed. This is an extremely just law that the government wants to pass in order to deal with the organized and unprecedented hatred of those who want to be linked up once again to the pipelines of public money, from which they have been cut off. In the face of a lawless and unbridled opposition, there is no room for suckers.

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