We Must Choose the Lesser of Two Evils

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Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz at a campaign meeting, August 23, 2019.
Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz at a campaign meeting, August 23, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

I thought the poet Nizar Qabbani’s statement, “The secret of our tragedy is that our shouts are louder than our votes,” applied only to Arabs. It now turns out that it also applies to the Kahol Lavan party’s leadership, which plans to replace Benjamin Netanyahu’s government without being “tarred” by Arab votes.

So here you have another insight born of the shock waves that MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Arab parties’ Joint List, caused when he expressed willingness, under certain conditions, to support a government headed by Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz: For members of Kahol Lavan, reality is like a shirt in the market. If it’s the one of your dreams, you buy it, and if it’s not, you can leave it to rot in the display window.

>> Read more: Israeli Arab leader made a rare overture. The consequences could be harmful | Analysis ■ Israeli Arabs want in, center-left says no | Opinion

For how will Kahol Lavan manage to replace Netanyahu without the Arabs’ votes? Is there some illegal immigrant ship on the horizon that’s bringing another million Kahol Lavan voters to change the demographic balance in favor of Netanyahu’s opponents? Therefore, while it might be possible in dreams, in reality there’s no choice but to forge an alliance with the Arabs.

In light of this chilling fact – the need to rely on the Arabs – the pale figures of Kahol Lavan emerged with aggressive statements that wouldn’t embarrass the worst extremists on the Jewish street. For instance, MK Yoaz Hendel wanted the Arabs to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which is similar to asking Jewish citizens of Iran to recognize Iran as an Islamic state.

MK Yair Lapid, who had only just finished his flirtation by text message – from his Jacuzzi room, of course – with MK Bezalel Smotrich, complained that Odeh must first consider who he’s letting into his joint ticket “before he starts conducting coalition negotiations.” Given that you’re friends with benighted racists, Mr. Lapid, it’s an honor for both the Balad party and the Joint List, of which it is part, to have you disqualify them.

The third musketeer, MK Moshe Ya’alon, didn’t object to having an Arab cabinet minister, “but he has to believe in a Jewish and democratic state.” Ya’alon’s goodness of heart prevented him from demanding that the Arabs sing “The Jordan [River] has two banks, this one is ours, and so is that one.”

One can understand the nausea such statements provoke, but as the Arabs say, “The height of the screams is like the depth of the pain.” Really, how could you expect Lapid, who only yesterday disqualified then-MK Haneen Zoabi and the other “Zoabis” – then too, he was at the entrance to his gym – to feel good about sitting with all the Zoabis? How will Yoaz Hendel feel? (I feel chilled every time I think of his epiphany that the world is divided between Jews and those who hate them.) And so forth.

So as part of the accelerated reeducation course that society is being put through in these heated days, do you expect people to be shouting in the streets for Jewish-Arab brotherhood? You’re really going too far. Give them more time.

Meanwhile, with cries of glee, the knights of “we told you so” have risen up among us. We told you that the people aspiring to replace the Netanyahu-Shaked-Smotrich government are anti-Arab racists. Well, what did you think? That replacing a racist government and all its organs would be a pleasant stroll down some Tel Aviv promenade?

The job of anyone who wants to change things isn’t to demonstrate how evil his potential allies are. Anyone who wants to have influence should take what David Ben-Gurion said many years ago, turn it on its head and stand it on its feet: Instead of “It doesn’t matter what the gentiles say, what matters is what the Jews do,” our motto should be, “It doesn’t matter what the racists say, what matters is what the democrats do.”

Therefore, relying on Ben-Gurion’s dictum – after it has undergone a moral renovation – let us ask, what is the goal right now? To this, any person of sense would respond: replacing the Netanyahu government, whose leeches have overrun its leadership and turned it into their satellite.

Yes, if you say Likud, you’re saying Smotrich; if you say Netanyahu, you’re saying Itamar Ben-Gvir. The fringes have taken over the center in Israel, and the luxury of pointing out how arrogant this one is and how racist that one is will lead the democrats to destruction. So yes, dear friends, we have to hold our noses and join forces with the less racist.

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