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Israeli Leftists Now Want Lapid. Why?

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Left-wing voters are rising up against their own parties, first and foremost Meretz, which is bleeding from the crisis over MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. Many are now considering voting in the next election for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which has just unveiled a very respectable acquisition in the form of former Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

Israel's political crisis is far from over – and getting worse

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This pro-Lapid sentiment has some basis in reality. The Yesh Atid chairman has matured politically in recent years. He’s proved his determination and his spine, succeeded in the enormous mission of ousting Benjamin Netanyahu from the Prime Minister’s Office, set up a governing coalition – even if he ultimately failed to maintain it – and in general gives us the feeling that his heart is in the right place.

And as the cherry on top, Lapid has given up on his pathetic dream of recruiting right-wing voters, thank God, and instead veered strongly leftward. The separation of challah (a traditional Jewish practice), the visits to the Western Wall and the incitement against human rights organizations ceased.

But this is exactly why left-wing voters are making a mistake. They are flocking to him only because they’re angry at Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz, who has now been dealt a resounding slap. Meretz voters, along with some who previously supported the Labor Party led by Merav Michaeli, are angry that these parties aren’t making the left’s values felt in the government more – that is, they aren’t sufficiently engaged in issues like fighting the occupation and the collective racism against Arabs.

Yet what’s their solution? Voting for a party where the world “occupation” is considered a filthy sailor’s curse and a leader who, despite all the virtues noted above, behaved despicably when, apparently without suffering any pangs of conscience, lashed out at Breaking the Silence and Israeli Arabs who demonstrated against the Nation-State Law because he thought it would benefit him politically.

Many of the disappointed voters also dislike Meretz’s failed practice of reserving certain spots on its Knesset slate for specific individuals or groups, or the primaries that both Meretz and Labor conduct within their own closed clubs with all the enthusiasm of a bingo game in a nursing home. But what's better? Voting for a party whose leader decides with a thumb up or down who will sit at the cabinet table and who will be beheaded due to insufficient loyalty?

The pattern is so repetitive that it’s predictable, to such an extent that it’s hard to understand why leftist voters fail to see it clearly. Within a fairly short time, every leader of Meretz (or Labor) becomes the disappointment of the century, if they don’t find refuge in the dull fate of “simply not impressive.” The motivation to destroy these leaders may be rooted in reality, since every diligent router ultimately finds a network. But it always leads to the same failed outcome.

The leader is always compared to the holy icons, Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, may they rest in peace – though I’ll go out on a limb and predict that if they were still alive, they would become just as tarnished in the eyes of Meretz voters. And after some time on the job, pierced through with arrows from his own base, Horowitz pleads with his voters, who are angry with and contemptuous of him. Some of them will then graciously consent to boost the party across the electoral threshold, “even though each generation is worse than the last.”

After the left destroyed its ruling party and dispersed it among many smaller ones, thereby making an enormous contribution to weakening itself, Meretz’s implosion and the migration of its voters to Yesh Atid are now doing as much as Netanyahu and his partners to shift the political map to the far right. If Lapid represents the left flank of our politics, then MK Itamar Ben-Gvir will move from his place on the lunatic fringe to the heart of the legitimate right.

The phrase “the problem of the left” is a phrase that is played-out on the level of “home cooking” or the terms “fascist” and/or “Nazi,” which are hurled at anything anyone here dislikes. Nevertheless, the left’s frenetic restlessness is indeed a problem, one that says more about those protesting than about their disappointing leaders.

Today, Lapid is benefiting from his new clientele. But the moment they vote for him, this double-edged sword will turn against him.

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