Opinion

Why Vote for Labor-Gesher-Meretz in Israel's Election

Labor-Gesher-Meretz leaders Nitzan Horowitz, left, Amir Peretz, center, and Orli Levi-Abekasis join hands at a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 9, 2020.
Tomer Appelbaum

There are reasons why not to vote for Labor-Gesher-Meretz, and we can write about them with fervor and passion, mainly because voting for the alliance of left-wing parties is a rather passionless act. The fervor to put an end to the Netanyahu nightmare – that is, to vote for Kahol Lavan – or the gallant romanticism of identifying with the Arabs in Israel – by voting for the Joint List – are much more emotional and intense than the reasons to vote for the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance. Nevertheless, it’s the most reasonable, sensible act for the common leftist.

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Let’s start small. For months leftists ranted bitterly over the annoying behavior of Meretz and Labor’s leaders, who, losing touch with reality, plunged into a swamp of in-fighting and false consciousness. Now that they’ve united, there’s no reason to punish them by subtracting from their combined Knesset seats in the last election. Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz, who despite his problems has considerable virtues – did what he had to do. This is the time to build him up, not tear him down.

This is also the sensible choice in the face of the alternatives. On the one hand, there’s Kahol Lavan, which inherited Labor’s voter’s at that party’s height and has so far somewhat carried off its supreme goal, of ending or disrupting Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule. One can see why the prime minister’s detractors Netanyahu’s haters might be excited about the party. But leftists will find no solace there. Kahol Lavan has shown its true face on several occasions: a polite white-supremacy party, whose positions differ little from Likud’s, except in tone and nuance. These are much more pleasant to Mapainik ears yearning for the sensible order of yore: A general is a general, Bitan is a low-class Mizrahi Jew and Ahmed does yardwork.

We already have a ruling party whose vision is President Donald Trump’s racist peace plan and which puts most of its energy into the criminal delegitimization of Arabs who want a little more than a working sewer system. There’s no need for another one, although it has excellent table manners and good hair. (The leftist parties should perhaps thank Kahol Lavan for relieving them of the privileged masters’ stance.)

On the other hand, there’s the Joint List. It’s not wrong to want to express solidarity with Israel’s Arabs, who are under an ugly racist assault. It’s a worthy cause. Anyway, leftists are crushing on Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh, somewhat justifiably. But until Odeh establishes an Arab-Jewish party after his own heart, he is still obliged to appease all of the parties in the alliance.

In his recent interview with me, Odeh had great difficulty denouncing Iran or Hezbollah. “[I]f you ask me who caused the greatest evil to humanity in the last half century, I would answer without hesitation: the United States,” he said.

With all the criticism of America’s historical imperialism and today’s frightening United States, this statement reflects above all a rhetoric commitment to communism on the one hand and Palestinian nationalism on the other.

In every party, especially one forced to run together with parties that are fundamentally different from it, as in the Joint List, there are contradictions and clashes. And yet, there is no escape from asking the Joint List’s potential Jewish voters: Is the Islamic Movement or the Communist Party really closer to your core being than Tamar Zandberg, Orli Levi-Abekasis and Itzik Shmuli?

Which leads me to the most important point. The essence of representative democracy is electing representatives in the voters’ image. Odeh himself told me: “[M]y job is to raise voter turnout in the Arab community from 60 percent to 65 percent.” Does the face you seen in the mirror so repel you, that you’d rather vote for the annexationists of Kahol Lavan or the supporters of pan-Arab nationalism in the Joint List’s Balad party than for people who look and think more or less as you do?