Disaster 2015: Israelis Must Seize the Chance to Recover Quickly

The awful crisis of the right's victory is an unprecedented opportunity for us to learn from our mistakes and create a new mass movement.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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An Israeli protester waves a national flag during a rally demanding political change, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv March 7, 2015.
An Israeli protester waves a national flag during a rally demanding political change, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv March 7, 2015.Credit: AFP
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

First of all, we must bow our heads. The people had their say. The election was free and fair. If the media skewed the game, they skewed it against the right. And in a decision against the current, the majority ruled that Benjamin Netanyahu would be prime minister, that Likud would be the ruling party, and that ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties would be an integral part of the government.

Anyone who expected a rerun of 1999 when Labor’s Ehud Barak became prime minister got an intense version of 1996 when Netanyahu became prime minister — a quiet rebellion and a night of surprise, with Netanyahu crowned emperor. A person committed to democracy cannot but accept these results because that’s what the majority decided, and the majority is sovereign. In a legitimate process, Israel once again defined itself as Netanyahu’s Israel.

And yet what happened was a disaster. Israel had a last-minute chance to swerve before crashing into the glacier of delegitimization, but it chose to collide with it. It had a last-minute chance to avoid a confrontation with the Palestinians, but it chose confrontation. With eyes wide open, Israelis once again chose blindness. Of sound mind they chose inebriation.

When blood is shed it will happen because the old-new majority chose not to see the Palestinians, the settlements or the occupation. When sanctions strike, it will happen because the old-new majority turned its back to the winds of time. A shabby, turbid election campaign ended with a clear decision that buried the chance of sobriety before the head-on collision with reality.

Even better put, what happened here was an earthquake. The intensity of the 2015 convulsion was no less than the tremor of 1977 when Likud came to power and of 1981 when it won an upset victory.

It’s no accident that about a third of Israelis are steeped in depression today. It’s enough to glance at the roster of the new Knesset — only about a quarter of the MKs are from parties fully committed to democracy. It’s enough to glance at the makeup of the expected government — the ultra-Orthodox, settlers, nationalists and populists.

This country has several tribes, and the violent dynamics among them cause the earth to open up again and again and swallow up hope. Instead of forging a sane, enlightened center that will lead the various tribes, we’ve launched an ongoing tribal war that causes us to make irrational and irresponsible decisions.

Yair Garbuz sowed hatred and Netanyahu reaped the whirlwind. The media tried to force its opinion on the masses and the masses rebelled. The vicious circle of the elites’ war against the people and vice versa let the magician turn the beloved country into scorched earth.

The temptation to plunge into despair is huge. After the shock it’s easy to embrace the belief that Israelis are religious-Zionist, half-racist and incorrigible. After we awoke into a dark night’s dawn, it’s easy to plunge into helpless despondency.

But despair isn’t an option. This awful crisis is an unprecedented opportunity. The impending disaster is a command for action. We must learn our lessons, and quickly. We must learn from our mistakes. We must reinvent the wheel and create a new mass movement that will do vital ideological and political work.

Netanyahu’s victory is not a sin but a punishment — a punishment because we were complacent and arrogant. It’s a punishment because we were superficial and light-headed. If enlightened Israelis come to their senses following the crushing blow, there will be hope. There will be an alternative. There will be another chance.

After we failed so disgracefully in the 2015 election, we must start the new campaign at once. We don’t have a year to wait. We don’t have a month to wait. This week. Today. Now.

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