Dear right wing: Save the state of Israel, pleads the center-left. Give us a prime minister we can be proud of; strip from us the shame of the immunity law; restore to us the wonderful democracy that we knew; have mercy on our High Court of Justice. Enlightened right wing, remember Zeev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, purge our ranks of Miki Zohar and Miri Regev, remove Yariv Levin and Gilad Erdan, get rid of the sickening partnership with Bezalel Smotrich and the Gerrer rebbe, and the main thing – vomit Benjamin Netanyahu from your midst.
We are willing to go wherever you go; we will even adhere to your ideology – you saw, we almost agreed not to invite the Arabs to speak at the protest rally. We won’t quarrel with you about the nation-state law, we will sympathetically consider gender-segregated studies at the universities and even in the high schools. We won’t withdraw from the territories, we will continue the closure on Gaza and maybe we’ll also set out together to occupy the Gaza Strip. We, the members of the center-left, will salute you, provided only that you stand firm and don’t cave in.
Until now it was impossible to take these pleas seriously, because in Israel there is no such creature as an enlightened, pure and liberal right. On the Israeli right one cannot separate Likud from Yisrael Beiteinu, knitted kippot from shtreimels, Regev from Gideon Sa’ar, defending the High Court from the likes of Levin, Netanyahu from the immunity law and the override clause. It’s an “all-inclusive” package.
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But if the Knesset really does dissolve and the country goes to an election, not only the center-left will receive another rare, perhaps one-time chance to repair the serious mistakes it made when it tried to take refuge under the wings of right-wing ideology. Even sane enclaves on the right – those who consider Netanyahu a criminal even if he has yet to be convicted in court, those who respect the High Court and egalitarian democracy – could receive a pardon.
These enclaves, whose name has been tarnished by their leader, who have been crammed together with thugs and con men, deserve another chance at self-determination. The kind that will allow them to march with head held high and to be proud of their ideology, rather than being recruited as the foot soldiers of a don in order to save him from prison. A party that is sure of itself and of public support for its political, social and economic viewpoints, must use the election as an escape hatch that will prevent it from being identified as a criminal movement.
It’s true that Netanyahu cannot be removed from Likud, but it is possible to sever healthy limbs in Likud from Netanyahu. Such surgery was already performed by this party when Ariel Sharon resigned from it and formed Kadima, and that is not the only example of the splitting of a party after the glue that held it together has dried and cracked off.
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Likud loyalists who decide to leave don’t have to fear the victory of the left. What doesn’t exist cannot win. Outside, another kosher right-wing party called Kahol Lavan is waiting for them. Together they could form a large and united bloc of a rational, non-messianic, liberal right, of the kind that would enable Netanyahu to devote all his time to managing his trials.
And really, are there no rational, liberal, democracy-loving MKs remaining in Likud? Is the only right-wing beacon Gideon Sa’ar, who with superhuman courage criticized the Israel Defense Forces activity in Gaza and also attacked the immunity law, saying that it “offers zero benefit and causes maximum damage”?
Sa’ar himself does not have the secret cure for the profound rift in Israeli society. At most, he could be a replacement for Netanyahu, and that’s not much at this point. He is not a stick of sweet cotton candy around which to glue a national unity government in which the blue blends with the blue- and-white. There are only two ways to defeat the wearers of brown shirts and long black coats, and to uproot the source of the stench in the house on Balfour Street: By forming a solid center-left party, or a sane center-right party. And when the center itself is right wing, only one option remains.