Israel’s Orphaned Left

When leftists replace their Facebook profile photos with that of President Rivlin, they are admitting that ending the occupation is not the camp’s lofty ideal.

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
President Reuven Rivlin
President Reuven RivlinCredit: Tess Scheflan
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

The Israeli left’s embrace and support of President Reuven Rivlin, an unquestionable supporter of Greater Israel and Jewish settlement in such places as Hebron and Beit El, points to the tremendous leadership vacuum on the left, which is not expected to be filled in the foreseeable future. The search for a leader of the camp that recoils from the occupation and the curtailing of human and civil rights that comes with it is like that of the child who is left at school after everyone else has been picked up, and who with sad eyes tries to trap any passing man who conveys empathy and relative goodwill into being a father figure.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon was in that role before his return to politics, which came to nothing more than the creation of yet another nondescript centrist party. Before, along with and after him, a few individuals were cast in the role with a tweet from Twitter. They tried to push Yuval Diskin to center stage almost by force, until he declared that he simply wasn’t interested; Ron Huldai has yet to decide whether to spend the night in this messy bed, and Gabi Ashkenazi, to the extent his famous pragmatism could even suit the left’s positions, is still caught up in chapters from his past. He currently seems to be about to join Yair Lapid’s motley herd of go-with-the-crowd celebrities.

Still, we should take note of something that may be greater and more important than the long-term orphanhood of the peace camp since the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the disappointment of Ehud Barak. The thriving of Rivlin, a pleasant and decent man who is a true liberal, and the empathy for him in leftist circles, may indicate above all the disappearance of the two-state idea.

Rivlin, who speaks with respect and wisdom about equality between Arabs and Jews, can today also represent ostensibly left-wing values, which sound more relevant than various peace initiatives that speak at best about evacuating settlements and at worst about a trillion-year “peace process” that maybe, sometime, somewhere over the rainbow, will lead to an agreement about the number of prisoners to be released or a 30-square-meter adjustment in the route of the separation barrier.

Anyone who today speaks about a confederation, with Palestinian residents of the territories being granted the rights enjoyed by Israeli citizens, or any other idea leading to a binational state, and who a few years ago sounded like a messianist or a deluded radical, is today seen as a pragmatist. Certainly more than those who favor dividing the land, which is still the just and proper solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of the historical, cultural and economic disparities between the nations, the bloody disputes over the holy sites and above all the popular-racist sentiment, which is based on a lack of desire for a shared life or a belief in it, and a desire to impose apartheid or mutual expulsion.

Whether this is an ideological rejection of the separation ideas proposed by the Oslo Accords, radicalism that revels in its colorfulness, or only a weak and hopeless situation of being drawn into the violence and thuggery of the settlement movement, which has succeeded in anchoring itself in the territories and turning the idea of evacuating the settlements into a nightmare than no leader will risk — it is impossible to escape the confusion of the peace camp and the absence of belief in one of its core values, which was simply shelved in the last election campaign, even by the left-wing parties.

When leftists replace their Facebook profile photos with Rivlin’s, they are in effect admitting that the idea of ending the occupation is not the camp’s lofty ideal and accepting that the evacuation of the settlements is not feasible. They emphasize the ideas that are relevant to the left today: protecting Israeli democracy itself in the face of rising fascism and drafting as tolerable a solution as possible for the annexation to come.

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