The Zionist Union Is the Poor Man’s Likud

Anyone wishing to replace this government must first of all take a strong stand against the transformation of Israel into an apartheid state.

Haaretz Editorial
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Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog.
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Haaretz Editorial

The election campaign waged by the Zionist Union belies the declarations of its leaders, Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni, who state their wish to replace the current government. The slogan “It’s us or him” was recently changed to “Only a sucker would vote for Netanyahu,” but the essential message remains unchanged: the problem with the Likud government lies in Benjamin Netanyahu’s personality, not in his destructive policies.

Livni and Herzog are marketing themselves as people who will do a better job than Netanyahu in carrying out the foreign and defense policies of the Likud, covered in a patina of empty promises such as “we’ll return money to the public” or “free land for an apartment of your own.”

This week, Herzog and Livni joined right-wing parties in supporting the disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) from running for the Knesset, thus also aligning themselves with the Likud on issues of democracy, respect for minorities and the guaranteeing of freedom of expression. One could argue that this is only a tactic for luring Likud voters who are disenchanted with Netanyahu, but it increasingly seems that the Zionist Union’s tactics are also its strategy.

The main objective of the right-wing government, led by Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman, is the annexation of the West Bank and the consolidation of an apartheid regime in which millions of Palestinians devoid of civil rights live alongside increasing numbers of settlers who conduct themselves as lords of the land.

A secondary objective is the suppression of the political and communal aspirations of Israel’s Arab citizens. Anyone wishing to replace this government must first of all take a strong stand against the transformation of Israel into an apartheid state, while striving to incorporate its Arab citizens into an egalitarian state. These are the fateful issues facing Israel, not the cost of apartments or pre-school child care.

On the Zionist Union’s website, the section dealing with ‘political horizons’ promises to “mobilize the world’s support in our combat against terror and our neighbors” — in other words, to manage the conflict with the Arab world better than Netanyahu. Herzog and Livni have even given up on claiming to strive for peace with the Palestinians, implicitly agreeing with Netanyahu and Bennett that there is no partner and that we need to live with (in Bennett’s words) “shrapnel in our backside.” If these are their positions, it’s no wonder that Netanyahu is beating them in opinion polls. People who support Likud policies prefer the original to the poor imitation offered by Herzog and Livni.

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