The image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu elbowing his way to the front row of world leaders marching in Sunday’s rally in Paris – to which he was not invited – should not spark “just” national embarrassment. It should seriously bother us.
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This was supposed to be Israel’s international opportunity. When the murderous and racist extremism of radical Islamic groups is exposed, along with their combined attacks on the values of humanism, progress, and Judaism, Israel’s righteousness is meant to shine. But for that you need leadership that is perceived as humanistic and progressive, the kind that is committed to the promises written in Israel’s Declaration of Independence – equality, freedom,and human rights.
Instead, the opposite type of leadership threatens to continue to dominate Israel. A leadership that when confronted with the religious extremism and messianic and homophobic racism of Islamic radicals responds with the religious, racist, messianic, homophobic extremism of Jewish radicals. The murder of Yitzhak Rabin and the massacre committed at the Tomb of the Patriarchs may not be the same kind of violence displayed by ISIS, but it’s not for nothing that former heads of Israel’s security services like Shabtai Shavit and Carmi Gillon determined that domestic extremism is more dangerous to Israel than any external threat.
In this drama of national identity, Yair Lapid has taken on a tragic role. His intentions may have been good, but he insists on sinking Israel into a racist hell. None of his 19 Knesset seats came from voters for the radical or religious right. That didn’t stop him from taking a swing at all Arabs, preventing the formation of a center-left bloc , and hooking up with the right, which didn’t have a majority to rule without him. Against the will of his voters, Lapid formed a “Jewish brotherhood,” an alliance with Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, and imposed it on the Netanyahu regime. It’s hard to imagine a more indecent assault on the voters’ intentions than taking hundreds of thousands of votes cast against extremism and using them to help anoint the greatest extremists.
Lapid is now trying to decry the homophobia being displayed by Habayit Hayehudi and its enthusiasm for the settlements. This is embarrassing, because the rabbis and settlements of Habayit Hayehudi have not changed since two years ago, when Lapid decided to foist them and their budgetary priorities on Israel. A fatal misjudgment like that cannot be given a second chance.
What’s worse is that even now, Lapid continues to essentially serve Netanyahu and Bennett and do everything so that they can continue to rule. The only one who can replace Netanyahu at this point is Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. To do that, he needs a large party and a large bloc. Every vote for Lapid makes a large-party victory less likely. Every vote for Lapid reduces the chance of forming a large bloc. In contrast to Meretz, which unequivocally supports an upset led by Herzog, Lapid refuses to say whether he supports Herzog or Netanyahu. After all that he knows about Netanyahu, he still declines to depose him. After Lapid refused to be in a center-left bloc last time, choosing Bennett instead, there is no reason to believe he will act otherwise this time.
Furthermore, the center-left will never be able to replace the messianic right without the support of the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox. Lapid, who makes racist remarks at the expense of the “Zoabis” and doesn’t understand that the Haredim, who are fighting against the Temple Mount insanity, are preferable to his Jewish brothers who are addicted to the Temple sacrifices, is an abiding obstacle to overthrowing the right.
If Lapid doesn’t come to realize that establishing a government that isn’t messianic and racist means yielding to the Haredim – on the criminal sanctions in the anti-draft law, for example – he will impose on Israel a government in which his brother Bennett will be no lower than defense minister.
Unlike in the boss-dominated, anti-democratic parties like Yesh Atid, today there will be primary elections for the only party that can lead the upheaval. Labor Party members can choose candidates like Eitan Cabel, Shelly Yacimovich, Merav Michaeli, Yossi Yona, Erel Margalit, Omer Bar Lev, Moshe Mizrahi, Nahman Shai, Stav Shaffir, Itzik Shmuli, Eitan Broshi, Danny Atar, Gilad Kariv, Ayelet Nahmias and more. If Labor doesn’t pull off an upset against messianism, we will have lost more than just Paris.