The Likable Labor List Returns to the Lies of the 1970s

There is not even one candidate who sees the struggle against the occupation as his or her flagship issue. Not a single one.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Labor Party candidates celebrate the primary results, January 14, 2014.
Labor Party candidates celebrate the primary results, January 14, 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

I like Knesset candidate lists that feel right. The one chosen by Labor Party members the other night undoubtedly has a positive feel to it, reminiscent of the old Gevatron troupe breaking into songs about fields of wheat in their harmonious and pleasant voices. Any Jewish mother would be proud to have her son or daughter adorn this likable list. Any scout master would be happy to lead such a group. They dress well, eat with their mouths closed, keep their arms off the table and don’t make a noise between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, if ever.

Topping the list is Isaac Herzog, whose second name is Mr. Nice Guy. A man with no enemies, of whom it is said that he’s never quarreled with anyone or annoyed anyone. A good guy, in the bad sense of the word. Right behind him is Shelly Yacimovich. She, in contrast to Herzog, is not (always) so nice, and has no patience for all this occupation nonsense. She devotes her life to the struggle for social justice, but for Israelis only. This is a strange breed of left-wingers, espousing a nationalist social democracy, a local invention not seen elsewhere – the pursuit of justice halts at the Green Line. There is also support for contract workers, but not those who had to struggle through checkpoints [from the West Bank] in the middle of the night.

The following candidate is Stav Shaffir, an impressive and determined young woman, also involved in the fight for social justice. Whereas Yacimovich once explained that a school built in the settlements would have been built in any case, Shaffir at least tries to oppose the scandalous funds pouring into the settlements. Shaffir’s comrade in the social protest Itzik Shmuli is also not concerned with the occupation. He is the one most associated with “social” issues, to the exclusion of Palestinians.

After him comes Omer Bar-Lev, who is the “defense” expert, responsible only for military issues, not those relating to morality or justice. Merav Michaeli used to write courageous and pointed articles in Haaretz, but has changed her agenda since being elected. Expectations from Nachman Shai never exceeded anything beyond explaining to the world and sanctifying anything Israel did. The opinions of Revital Swid are unknown so far, but she is no Machsom Watch participant. Candidates Eitan Cabel, Erel Margalit, Hilik Bar and Miki Rosenthal are all occupied with their own affairs, some of which are very important but have no bearing on Israel’s number one problem. Don’t disturb them, they’re busy.

It’s not that the Labor Party has no diplomatic platform and it’s not that it doesn’t believe something should be done. Of course something should be done. The party, after all, favors the diplomatic process more than anyone else does. It also favors a two-state solution, but not right now, maybe not even here. Herzog talks of negotiations with the Palestinians that will last – get this – five years (!), which means five more years of photo-ops and building settlements. Herzog promises to freeze construction outside the large settlement blocs – wow! Earth-shattering news! However, the Etzion Bloc will remain ours forever and ever since it “protects Jerusalem.”

This is a return to the lies of the 1970s. One of Herzog’s predecessors, Shimon Peres, established Ofra in order to protect an IDF antenna, as well to defend Israel’s Jerusalem. Now his successor will retain the Etzion Bloc for the same purpose. This is the same old “tower and stockade” settlement policy used in Mandatory times. The old Labor Party’s genetic makeup has not changed and its spirit lives on: The founder of the settlement policy and its mother figure continues from one generation to the next.

The list that was chosen two days ago by this leftist party, which may prefer to be labeled center-left, hardly attends to these issues. There is not even one candidate who sees the struggle against the occupation as his or her flagship issue. Not a single one. There is not even one social-democrat candidate who will devote time and effort to resolve the fate of asylum seekers from Africa. What does the Israeli Labor Party have to do with them?

What is included? Beer and good cheer, tea and sympathy, a nice supportive atmosphere, without deals and cliques, in a party which, at least until yesterday, was fittingly called the “Zionist Camp.” Vote Labor, vote for something likable.

Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz

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