The Left Needs to Accept How Democracy Works

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Left-wing activists demonstrate against the Gaza operation in Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Judging by a recent exchange of op-ed pieces and letters to the editor in this paper, despair seems to have gripped some of the Israelis who identify with the left. There are those who declare their intent to leave Israel, while others urge them to stay and keep up the good fight against the right.

They have yet to explain why it is those claiming to be the advocates of democratic government that have most difficulty in accepting the verdict of the electorate that has brought to power a government not to their liking. After all, changes of government are the essence of democratic rule. It is true that for many years the left was in control in Israel, and even before that for many years in the pre-state days. But it was the “upset” that brought the right to power in 1977 which demonstrated that Israel was a real democracy. And the changes of governments we have had since then have confirmed it, over and over.

Besides, just where do those so dissatisfied with Israeli democracy intend to go? When they start looking at the map of possible destinations, they are liable to find that the right seems to be ascendant in much of the democratic world these days. It is true that the Democrats control the White House in Washington, but the Republicans control the House of Representatives and, by the looks of it, will control the Senate as well after the November elections. In Germany, Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats, has been chancellor for the past nine years and still going strong. Yes, there is the socialist François Hollande in France, but he is not doing so well. Not a very inviting prospect for those who are fed up with Israeli democracy.

The right, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, has been in power for the past five and a half years, and may very well continue for another four. The fact is, like it or not, that the population of Israel has swung to the right in recent years. One might even say the Israeli public has gone through a “learning curve” after a succession of disappointments with the “peace process,” which at the time had the support of the majority of the population.

The Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization – signed by a Labor government led by Yitzhak Rabin in 1993 – had the support of the majority of the population. But as the years went by and Israel was hit by waves of Palestinian terror, they are seen by most to have been a serious mistake.

The next Labor government, led by Ehud Barak, decided to abandon Israel’s ally, the South Lebanon Army, and unilaterally leave the southern Lebanese security belt. It was a move approved by the majority of the Israeli public at the time, but with the ascendancy of Hezbollah, followed by the 2006 Second Lebanon War, it is now viewed negatively by most.

When Ariel Sharon turned left and decided to forcefully remove all Jews from their settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, he had the support of most Israelis. Today, after thousands of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip have hit Israel, that move is considered by almost all to have been a major mistake.

Is it any wonder that, during those years, more and more Israelis have become risk-averse, unenthusiastic about any further adventures purporting to be steps to advancing peace, and have moved to the right?

Add to this the “demographic factor.” The Russian immigrants, with the Soviet experience still fresh in their minds, are mostly on the right. Ethiopian immigrants are not likely to support the left. And now come the French Jews, who leave a country that is mismanaged by the left and seem to love Israel the way it is. It looks like the right is here to stay, at least for a while.

It is true that the majority may not always be right, but it is the will of the majority that is obeyed in a democracy.

Left wing Israelis hold signs as they participate in a demonstration against the Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 17, 2014.Credit: AP

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