To Be the Zionist Left in the Days of Trump and Netanyahu

The election of Donald Trump has provided a tailwind for moves which a statesman like Netanyahu would not have taken in saner days

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

Everyone can see that in the United States there is a president unfit to rule.

In Israel, people on the right find arguments intended to diminish this fact. He is good for us, he opposes extremist Islam. They dont care that America is managed on Twitter, that its president doesnt read books or documents.

Theyll dismiss any unfavorable fact related to him by saying that the global left is working to depose him, and thats a sufficient argument in their eyes.

Everyone knows that the bill proposing capital punishment for terrorists is a foolish one. This is true of people opposing the death sentence on principle, as well as for people who are right-wing hawks or people of faith. Everyone knows that young Shaheed martyrs will embrace this law and that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement will celebrate the laws passage.

Everyone also knows that the law wont change the current situation. The heads of all security agencies say so openly. I believe the defense minister [the laws instigator] knows this as well, but this aggressive person who is sliding in the polls has to raise some banner, a pointless one except in one regard: anyone opposing it will be identified as part of Israels left, as someone who has lost his national pride and his commitment to protect Israels citizens.

This is also the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu operates, with his attacks on the left being reminiscent in their logic of the old-style anti-Semitism, which used to blame the Jews for all the failures of church or state. The left, Netanyahu hints, is also behind the investigations launched against him.

Anyone listening to him may be led to believe that the police commissioner is an activist in BTselem, the human rights group. Its not only the commissioner – anyone opposing political messianism and the steps taken to suppress the civic and legal systems is, in the eyes of the right, a full-fledged leftist. This is how people such as former MK Dan Meridor and President Reuven Rivlin are labeled as leftists. 

Anti-Semitism engendered several types of reactions by Jews. Some fought it, some tried to explain that Jews arent that bad and others chose to give up being Jewish.

This is similar to reactions by people on the left: some of them attack the right for its failures and its path, some argue that they are not as they are depicted, that they are true patriots, that they dont like Arabs and that a united Jerusalem is more important than peace. Others flatly deny that they have anything to do with the left. These positions wont change the way the right relates to them even a bit. Their political conversion is rejected out of hand, since left is unchangeably left.

We should internalize these facts: in parts of the democratic world centrist parties are losing ground. 

The alternative to Trump is democratic-liberal, which is easily labeled as leftist. In Britain the center is imploding and the left is competing with the right for power. At the center of the democratic system there is a competition between the moderate right and the sane left, in spite of extremist currents on both sides.

In contrast, the right which is made up of Knesset members Bezalel Smotrich, Naftali Bennett and Zeev Elkin is a right devoid of any inhibitions. The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has provided a tailwind for moves which a statesman like Netanyahu would not have taken in saner days. Its obvious that Netanyahu opposes the annexation of the West Bank, but extremist Rabbi Dov Lior supports it, so the Likud avidly lines up behind this move. 

Its clear that he opposes capital punishment for terrorists – he understands the negligible advantages and the extent of the damage caused by this bill – but he toes the line drawn by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He knows that the bill regulating the opening of supermarkets of the Sabbath endangers his political power, but he sells long-range vision with a possible purchase of temporary quiet.

Campaigning against these trends harbors great opportunities, but the Zionist left wing must be the spearhead leading the way – there is no other alternative.