Opinion |

Labor Is Dead, and There's Only One Way to Revive It

Keeping it alive by artificial means will only humiliate the suffering patient and obscure its former greatness

Avraham Burg
Avraham Burg
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File photo: Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay attends the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 29, 2019.
File photo: Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay attends the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 29, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod
Avraham Burg
Avraham Burg

This time around too, the election campaign is marked by anguished cries for help, on both the left and the right. The old lady of Israeli political parties is drowning, even though her cries for help are barely audible.

Tacticians will claim that her conduct was improper. Others will say she’s become irrelevant, and historians will argue that the historic role of Israel’s founding movement, the Labor Party, is over.

It’s hard to believe it, but the Labor Party is fading before our very eyes. That pains me personally.

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The party was my political home and that of many of my friends, and I certainly don’t wish to denigrate it. Even though we parted ways years ago, I gave it everything I had and the best years of my life and got a lot from it in return.

The current well-known, sad political reality is indifferent to my romanticism. It could be that everything is in fact over, but if that’s the case, I ask myself what should be done.

Even I am surprised by the answer. She should be helped to die. Sometimes artificially extending life only humiliates the suffering patient and obscures her former greatness, as she gobbles up essential resources from those around her, imposing a burden on the living and foreclosing any prospect for revival and renewal.

Now onto the April 9 Knesset election. Voting out of nostalgia is devoid of significance, and there is no sense building strategies on retaining the remnants of the party’s Knesset seats. We have to admit the truth and prepare accordingly.

The Labor Party in its current condition is like a pet that has been run over on a freeway. As it lies there, a huge line of traffic is building up behind the accident scene. Until the highway is cleared, everything is at a standstill and the situation drives everyone crazy.

If when the polls close on Election Day, news of its death emerges from thousands of polling stations – perhaps even accompanied by the death of Meretz – something good and new will emerge following the mourning period. The era of semi-liberal Zionism has ended.

An entire generation of politicians will go to the graveyard where those who were purportedly irreplaceable are buried. That’s because the time has come for a new Israeli identity that will flourish where the old one has given way.

We’ll have a few years of desolation on the part of the political spectrum ranging from Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid to Ayman Odeh of the Joint List. But there, in that political wilderness, a new generation will emerge.

In the words of poet Shaul Tchernichovsky: “And a generation shall arise in the land, shake off its chains, and see light in every eye.”

Angry creative agenda-driven young people with leadership capabilities will surface from all around. They will act out of a real fear over rising populism, crazy nationalism and the cruelty of capitalist economics. They won’t be afraid of proposing an alternative to the existing conservatism in the form of a hopeful and democratic Israeli identity.

It’s hard to predict what the politics of the new left will look like. We can expect new models and approaches never seen before, things that it’s hard to imagine now. It will be a progressive generation that espouses equality and fairness, free of artificial and outmoded limitations, distinguishing only between good and evil.

When I tell people such things, I see fear in their eyes – fear of remaining in this world without the Mom who brought us into it. But that’s how life is, the way of all flesh, and sometimes being orphaned is liberating. Don’t fear this death because rebirth will surely follow.

And if the Labor Party is in fact still showing signs of life, there is only one way of saving it. Amir Peretz needs to be appointed immediately to head the party again. He needs to be given free rein to shape the party’s slate of candidates as he sees fit, whatever the results of the party’s primaries. And then, I say, pray.

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