In Israeli Politics, Every Turn Is a Right Turn

This relay race aimed at turning the entire country into one big Likud party is being led by the two heads of the so-called opposition, Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Yair Lapid and Isaac Herzog, December 24, 2014.
Yair Lapid and Isaac Herzog, December 24, 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

It turns out that the right’s victory in the last election had even a greater effect than was apparent at first, so great that everyone seeks to emulate the right. The Zionist left and the radical center, everyone wants to be the right, and they’re not even hiding it.

Here is Israel’s current political map, between Likud on the right and the Joint Arab List on the left. Labor (Zionist Union): Likud for Ashkenazi Jews. Yesh Atid: Likud for people from Ramat Hasharon. Kulanu – Likud for Mizrahi Jews.

Meretz is on its way there, too. Yossi Verter reported in Haaretz on Friday that its chairwoman, Zehava Galon, is considering partnering with the “center-left” parties, which are now galloping to the right, in the next election. In other words: Et tu, Meretz? “[I]t’s impossible to be so fastidious anymore,” explained Galon. In other words: I’m moving toward the center, because I didn’t win enough Knesset seats and I’ve become irrelevant. This is true, of course, but the order is backward: First she moved toward the center, then she became irrelevant. Now, all she needs to do is join up with a right-wing party in disguise and she’ll be relevant again, according to her logic. “The goal is putting the left back in power,” she said. Perhaps the left will return to power, but it will no longer be the left, and in that case, what’s the point? What would this left do differently? And what would make it different from the original party, which took over the ideological map?

This relay race aimed at turning the entire country into one big Likud party is being led by the two heads of the so-called opposition, Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid. The former clarified: I’m not a leftist; the latter donned a tallit. Some Labor Party Knesset members supported heavier punishments for convicted rock-throwers, while Lapid supported the death penalty for a rock-thrower (by the division commander who killed him). Left-center or center-left, they’re both right-wing.

The Israel Now conference held on Friday by Peace Now was an accurate reflection of this fateful shift, precisely because it was well-organized, serious, informative and well-attended. When there isn’t a single Jewish Knesset member whose top priority is fighting the occupation above all else; when the opposition declares that when it comes to all of the important issues, “there’s no such thing as opposition and coalition”; when everyone is constantly moving to the right, only to the right, it is at a left-wing conference, of all places, that the real picture is made clear — for example, in the session, itself an act of courage, on the international boycott movement against Israel.

No surprises there: There was not a single Jewish MK, neither from the Labor Party or from Meretz, who supported the boycott. The whole world is for it, the whole left, except for our left. Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) says the boycott’s purpose is to tarnish Israel, Michal Rozin (Meretz) says the fight must be from within and Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union) says boycotts are unacceptable. They all agree that a two-state solution is imperative.

But how to reach it? By means of Israeli public opinion, ever more nationalist? With the center-left, which no longer even mentions freezing settlement construction? Through another round of bloodshed, which might be the only war to change Israel’s positions? Peace Now’s conference presented a left without plans. “Israel Now” has no alternative, the peace camp has no ideas.

They are all good people with the best intentions. But what do they want? How will they achieve their goals? Of course it’s allowed to cite opposition to the boycott, even though Peace Now cofounder Tzali Reshef courageously said “nothing is more effective.”

But alternatives must be offered, and the Israeli left certainly has none to offer, as it slides further and further to the right.

Epilogue: As I left the conference, I met the admirable Yael Dayan. From the wheelchair she sometimes uses due to illness, she told me she was rushing home because her oxygen tank was used up.

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