Israelis, Vote for Hope. Vote for Zionist Union

Herzog and Livni may not be perfect, but they and their party are returning Israel to itself, to its essence, to what it’s supposed to be.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
Tzipi Livni, left, and Isaac Herzog, presenting Zionist Union's party platform at a Tel Aviv press conference in March 2015.
Tzipi Livni, left, and Isaac Herzog, presenting Zionist Union's party platform at a Tel Aviv press conference in March 2015.Credit: Tomer Applebaum
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Plenty of negative things can be said about Isaac Herzog. He’s not tall, not broad, and sometimes looks like a bar mitzvah boy. He didn’t cross the Suez Canal, he didn’t liberate Jerusalem and he didn’t build a nuclear reactor in Dimona. He texts too much and consults too much, and his statements aren’t sharp enough. Bougie is no Winston Churchill or Charles de Gaulle. He’s no David Ben-Gurion either.

But in the past four months, Herzog has done the impossible: He has restored hope. He took a country that seemed entirely in the dark and turned on a light. All of a sudden, thanks to him, you can see Israel returning to itself, to its essence, to what it’s supposed to be.

Plenty of negative things can be said about Tzipi Livni too. I myself did just that six years ago, and now I regret it. Livni isn’t bullish enough on socioeconomic issues, and she isn’t strategic enough and cannot claim any great historic achievements. She didn’t build the country, she didn’t make peace with Egypt and she didn’t invent high-tech. Tzipi is no Margaret Thatcher or Hillary Clinton. She’s no Menachem Begin either.

But Livni has proven how much she has matured and softened since 2009, and how much she has grown. With Herzog, over the past four months, she has pulled off one of the most amazing miracles ever seen here: creating something from nothing, hope from despair, illumination from darkness. All of a sudden, thanks to her, you can see Israel returning to itself, to its essence, to what it’s supposed to be.

Zionist Union is not like the historic Mapai. It’s too insubstantial and too immature. It doesn’t have as much intellectual depth, and does have a number of troubling populist elements. But for the 2015 election, Zionist Union is fielding a team that combines responsible national leadership (Manuel Trajtenberg, Amos Yadlin, Amir Peretz) with young and promising leadership (Stav Shaffir, Itzik Shmuli, Merav Michaeli). Zionist Union has also established itself as a centrist party that is Zionist, and not cynical.

The new-old political entity has managed to break through the glass ceiling and go head-to-head with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. It has also been able to convince many young people that it is imperative, and possible, to replace the leadership, and that it’s okay to believe again. All of a sudden, thanks to Zionist Union, you can see Israel returning to itself, to its essence, to what it’s supposed to be.

Hundreds of thousands of moderate Israelis are asking themselves whom they should vote for.

Those debating between Zionist Union and Meretz should choose Meretz. Alongside the sane center of Herzog-Livni, Israel needs a committed ideologically leftist party. There can be no parliamentary democracy in Israel without Meretz. Zehava Galon and her colleagues must be in the next Knesset.

But those debating between Zionist Union and Yesh Atid should choose Zionist Union. Yair Lapid got his chance in the 2013 election, and he blew it. He cynically used the trust placed in him by the middle class to forge an impure alliance with Habayit Hayehudi. It was Lapid who effectively secured Naftali Bennett’s appointment as a cabinet member (dangerous) and Uri Ariel’s appointment as housing minister (ruinous); thus, Lapid is directly responsible for every housing unit built in the settlements in the past two years.

This time, then, Lapid no longer carries the great torch of hope; instead, he represents its antithesis. The choice is stark: Vote for Lapid or vote for hope.

There’s no knowing what the election results will be. There is much fluctuation and aggravation, and the underground currents run deep. But one thing is certain: The 2015 election campaign has shown that Israel is not bereft of hope. Now the responsibility rests upon each and every one of us to fulfill this hope — and to cast a Zionist vote.

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