In “normal” times, but especially in these times, we are warned against the extremists. Generally, of course, against the extremists on the right.
Recently, with the appropriate hesitancy, the wording sometimes includes the extremists “on the right and on the left.” Both groups, we are told, are a threat to our national unity; both groups are dragging the country to the edge of the abyss.
These fears are expressed in the election polls: A significant number of Israelis trust the centrist parties, particularly ones that are expected to run for the first time in the upcoming general election.
Anyone doing an in-depth analysis of the opinions of supporters of Likud and Zionist Union – and even of Habayit Hayehudi – will find that many of them belong to the “center”: center-right, center-left and simply center.
The arguments over prosaic issues are fierce and leave deep emotional scars, but next to the disputes over the core issues, especially in the areas of security and foreign relations, they are trivial.
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True, in Likud, Zionist Union and Habayit Hayehudi there are Knesset members and voters, in particular, whose views could be described as “extreme,” but the majority in these parties aspire to belong to the broader community of Israel, to the center.
Certainly that’s the case for Yesh Atid and Kulanu. The Jewish longing, despite the raised voices of division, is for unity. “Strength in unity” is not just an empty slogan; if you will, it reflects the emotional makeup of the majority of the nation.
The fact that so many people are concentrated in the political center shows that the fear being whipped up by the strident voices of the panic generators – which benefit from the amplification given to them by the media and by social media, and are telling us we are in a deep national crisis that jeopardizes our future – is exaggerated.
If there were a genuine rift, the new parties would have been founded by people with radical opinions – very different from the views, and especially the characters, of Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Gantz and Orli Levi-Abekasis. Their message is far from radical. It calls for replacing the government. Its main argument is that the government is mismanaged and obstructs the rule of law.
Some people declare that Israel has become a fascist, apartheid state. The time has come, say people in these circles, to launch a “no-holds-barred” struggle to save Israeli democracy. A few trolls even call for an actual civil war, including on this very page.
They are statistically insignificant. Unfortunately for them, the overall trend in Israeli society is to prefer the center over the margins. That tendency can be summed up in the slogan that the vast majority of Israelis support: “Unity, not division.”
Party loyalty and vociferous, often unrestrained opposition to the rival party also feed into the sense of crisis. Over the years, particularly as a result of the strong personal hatred that the left has developed for Benjamin Netanyahu (a dyed-in-the-wool centrist, in both his ideology and his conduct), his supporters, who feel themselves to be hated as well, have begun to respond in kind. This hatred, however deep, is emotional, incidental and transitory.
Ehud Barak invests great effort into uniting a group of centrist parties whose purpose is to bring down Netanyahu, the root of all evil. Barak’s message in the innumerable interviews the media gives him is one of hate.
No significant member in the group he is trying to bring together – the likes of Ya’alon, Gantz and Avi Gabbay – is a person of hatred, with the exception of Barak himself. If they want to draw the nation’s hearts to them, they would do well to wash their hands of the man who is mired in the swamp of hatred.