Voting on Israel's Existence

These fateful elections must be about freeing Israel from the anti-Zionist fanatics.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Construction at the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, Sept. 16, 2014.
Construction at the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, Sept. 16, 2014.Credit: AP
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The importance of the 2015 election cannot be too highly emphasized. This time the question isn’t about the price of an apartment or cottage (cheese), but whether there will be a home for us at all. This time the struggle isn’t about convenience but about the core of our existence. Because this time the forces threatening Israeli democracy and the Zionist enterprise from within are unprecedented in their power.

In the past Likud was a national-liberal party (Menachem Begin, Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Reuven Rivlin). Today it’s a populist, unrestrained, anti-liberal party (Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Miri Regev). In the past religious Zionism was a restrained, or responsible or marginal movement (Yosef Burg, Zevulun Hammer, Zevulun Orlev). Today it’s an arrogant, belligerent movement that could seize power (Naftali Bennett).

The renewed alliance between the nationalist Likud and the messianic Habayit Hayehudi makes an almost apocalyptic horror scenario possible – Israel as Rhodesia, as South Africa, as a fortress of zealots.

Some describe the elections as a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu. This is a mistake. Netanyahu has already lost most Israelis’ trust. He’s a spent force. But the understandable sentiment “anything but Bibi” is dangerous and could play into the hands of dark powers. An overly broad coalition of Netanyahu-haters might bring Avigdor Lieberman or Naftali Bennett to the Prime Minister’s Office. So it’s imperative to fight Netanyahu as hard as possible and end his failed term, but to do so wisely and responsibly. We must not escape from the frying pan only to fall into the fire.

We must not let the election campaign become personal (again). Only a positive vision and ethos will generate the required change and ensure it is deep and viable.

Some describe the elections as a referendum on peace. This is a mistake. Israel is morally and politically obligated to seek peace at all times, but it must not delude itself. The Arab chaos, the Palestinian extremism and the Israeli republic’s weakness do not enable achieving a utopian peace in the near future. So elections centering on Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb Erekat and the Arab League peace plan will end with the extreme right’s victory. Both Netanyahu and Bennett will spot the peace promise’s fallacy and use it to mock the center-left.

We mustn’t let the election campaign become false (again). Only a serious ideological, realistic and moral proposal of the democratic Israelis will thwart the messianic nationalism.

The elections must be a referendum on Zionism. In the balance lies the Jewish-democratic state. To prevent Zionism from collapsing, the country must be divided. First the settlements must be frozen, then the occupation must be carefully and gradually cut back. In order to have a Jewish-democratic state here, it must be enlightened. The Technion and Weizmann Institute must be placed at its center, not Yitzhar and Itamar. The state must deal with redefining Israel anew as a free, progressive and just state.

For a change, we must tell the truth. The settlers are the direct and immediate threat to our future. Gush Emunim’s taking over the government has led to the distortion of our identity and placed our survival in danger.

The settlers’ continued rampage will do to the Third Temple what the fanatics’ rampage did to the Second Temple. So these fateful elections must be about freeing Israel from the anti-Zionist fanatics. They must be about renewing Israeli statesmanship and Israeli progress. Neither Netanyahu nor peace is the crucial issue. What’s at stake is the existence of a sovereign, modern and democratic homeland, of which we can be proud and in which we can live.

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