Opinion |

Crime and Punishment for Israel's Left Wing

There are very few cases in Israeli politics in which justice is meted out as it is to the Labor and Meretz parties, which have abused their office and are now being punished

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay at a conference in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019.
Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay at a conference in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The Zionist left-wing’s lament: Two of its parties could very well not pass the vote threshold for entering the next Knesset. Labor, which founded the state, and Meretz, which tried to provide its moral justification, could well be erased. At least one opinion poll already forecasts this.

It is a time of emergency: Ravit Hecht calls on leftists to vote for them (“Lefists, Don’t Jump Ship,” February 1). Nitzan Horowitz calls on them to unite (in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition), and no one asks: Why? What happened?

Don’t worry: They probably won’t disappear.

Keep worrying: They are dying.

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There are very few cases in Israeli politics in which justice is meted out as it is to these two parties which have abused their office and are now being punished. Given the way they have acted over the past 20 years, they deserve to disappear. This is crime and punishment. They are the only ones guilty for their demise.

Their voters, the Zionist leftists, may very well now rush in droves to vote for Benny Gantz, and receive Moshe Ya’alon, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser – and not feel anything. For a long time, they have been voting for the right or nebulousness. Now they will be punished.

Labor and Meretz will be punished because they have lost their way. In their twilight years they have made their hatred for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into their only agenda, in particular Labor. So, the party’s voters will say that if the supreme goal is to remove Netanyahu, it would be better to vote for Gantz. He is the only one who can get rid of Netanyahu, so why beat around the bush. When removing Netanyahu is the only issue, then Hosen Le’Yisrael is the only answer.

But the demise did not begin with the hatred of Netanyahu. It started when the parties decided to blur (Labor) or water down (Meretz) their positions and betray their mission.

They both needed to have proposed an alternative and opposition to, above all, the occupation. Labor has not done it at all and Meretz has not done it enough. Both fled from the crucial issues and took refuge in their comfort zones.

Their leaderships thought that this was the way to increase support. Now they have realized that the opposite was true: When you blur your positions, water them down or run from clear and brave positions – you lose everything. The end has come for you, dear Labor and Meretz. It is doubtful that we even need to cry over their expected demise.

It is not a coincidence that the watershed moment of the beginning of their end came in the 2003 election. For the first time, Labor dropped to under 20 Knesset seats, and Meretz lost half of its strength, ending up with five MKs. The weakness of one of them should have strengthened the other, but both collapsed.

What happened? They abandoned their crucial struggle, replaced courageous leadership with less brave leaders, obscured their positions and began to hemorrhage.

Above all this hovered the cloud of their disgraceful and cowardly flight from the main issue – we will say it again and again – the fight against the occupation. Both fled from it like from a fire. It’s not an electoral advantage said the experts and pollsters, so we will leave it alone.

In 2003, after the failure at Camp David and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the flags were taken down and folded. Labor, which never acted seriously to end the occupation, and Meretz that fought it until its strength wore out, raised white flags instead.

Labor crawled, gawked, stuttered and stayed silent. What was the party’s position on the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the wars in Gaza, negotiations with Hamas, the defense budget or the continuation of the settlements? It didn’t have any.

Meretz preferred other banners, more convenient ones. LGBT rights, the environment and the holocaust against animals are very important issues to battle for, but not as a replacement for the most important struggle.

A hierarchy exists for struggles and Meretz forgot this. With the exception of two MKs, Zehava Galon who left and Mossi Raz, and two candidates, Gaby Lasky and Yariv Oppenheimer, no one else among the leadership has made the battle against the occupation their first priority. And if this were not enough, the two parties have no real programs.

At a time when the two-state solution has become irrelevant, no one has arisen in either party to propose an alternative. So, they no longer have a right to exist. Maybe a more appropriate alternative will rise on their ruins.

For almost 20 years Israel has been left without any real fight against the occupation. Now it turns out that this is not only immoral, but also doesn’t pay.

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