Opinion |

Israel Doesn't Have the Luxury France's Macron Has

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, this month.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, this month.Credit: Ronen Zvulun /AP
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

Macron and Biden were lucky, with the system working for them. Ultimately, they contended head-to-head with their loony right and won because in both France and the United States there still is a majority against a wacky right wing.

In contrast to the sanctimonious people who reside in Israel but who in fact are living on the moon, with Macron and Biden the slogan “Just not Le Pen” or “just not Trump” is not perceived as something to be ashamed of. On the contrary, this was a hallowed imperative, derived from a sober analysis of reality. Thus, on the day of judgement, the progressive wing of the Democrats also backed Biden, as did statesman-like Republicans.

This is also what happened in the second round of the election in France, in which extreme leftists and sane rightists supported Macron. In the West, trouncing a zany right wing is not viewed as the least of evils, but as the best option there is.

In fact, this is the way the loony right was defeated in Israel. The alliance between the Bibi followers, the Kahanists and the ultra-Orthodox created a defensive front made up of leftists and rightists, veterans and new immigrants, secular and religious people, Arabs and Jews, all coming together to save the country.

Due to our defective system, which not only prevents decisive results but encourages defectors and Knesset seat thieves, as in the cases of Orli Levi-Abekasis and Amichai Chikli, it took four rounds of elections in two years to form a coalition. A coalition amounting to a historic miracle was formed with the slimmest of majorities, composed of eight (!) parties, with only one of those holding more than eight Knesset seats. The person at its helm resembles someone appointed by a committee convened to save a city in crisis more than a political leader with a solid public base.

Ironically, his government is wavering mainly because of his own anguished party members. All sorts of Silmans and Orbachs, as well as Ayelet Shaked of course, who haven’t decided yet whether their natural place is on the other side.

One mustn’t allow the flaws and limitations of this government to let us forget the dangers of a crazy right wing. Anyone who needs a reminder of this got a generous dose recently, starting with the marches to Damascus Gate and Homesh, designed to stir up trouble, followed by the invective shouting at a Knesset committee and an envelope with a bullet in it addressed to the Bennett family.

It bears noting that much of the media is yoked to Bibi-worship and Kahanism, addicted and committed to returning Netanyahu to power. It’s not only TV Channel 13’s Ayala Hasson and her investigations of Bennett's food deliveries and toilets, or journalists Yinon Magal raising money for the Netanyahu family and Sharon Gal sending investigative reporters to restaurants in Ra’anana.

To the dismay of the zany right, security forces have for now stopped shooting incidents in the country’s cities, but if these resume, one can count on media outlets to accompany them with non-stop coverage and a stoking of anxieties and hyped-up emotions. These are the same people who made Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir a TV studio superstar, in addition to religiously broadcasting every daily propaganda briefing by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, the government has restored sanity, even if only partially, to a place that in essence is not that normal. Among other achievements it passed a two-year budget, handled the coronavirus wave without imposing lockdowns or closures, started collecting weapons in Arab communities and – above all – it has changed the conversation. Every Sunday, the heads of the coalition parties convene with Bennett, with an Arab leader also present, for the first time in the country’s history.

This is a government which doesn’t exploit every crisis in order to incite against Arabs, leftists and secular people. All the people in it know from personal experience the risks posed by a crazy right wing. Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev described its blueprint well in a podcast in Haaretz: “Our red lines consist of making sure this government doesn’t fall.”

But preemptive action must be taken. The zany right is going nowhere. In the next round, whenever it takes place, one has to confront it by joining forces and making maximal use of the electoral base. The solution lies in having no more than four or five parties: a sane right, a center party, a social-democratic left, and Arabs wishing to integrate. After all, we don’t have the luxury Macron has.

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