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'Left' and 'Right' Keeps Israeli Politics From Working Together

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Mansour Abbas shaking hands in the Knesset
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Mansour Abbas shaking hands in the Knesset Credit: Noam Moskovitz
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

In preparation for the next election, I think it would be appropriate to agree that the leftists who supported the so-called change government, whether out loud or just in their hearts, cannot now – as it falls apart – go backward and readopt the old rhetoric and warn about Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Avigdor Lieberman, Gideon Sa’ar, Zeev Elkin and others, and the positions with which they are identified. It is impossible to go back to scaring people about those they joined up with, and to warn about the processes or policies they supported just five minutes before – whether actively or by doing nothing.

The same goes for rightists who supported the change government. They too can’t go back to the old rhetoric warning against Arabs and the left: We saw you working together, laughing and joking – a big, happy gang. If the leftists or the rightists in the change government act that way, it will be no different from how Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party warned against partnering with Mansour Abbas and his United Arab List, after they themselves were willing to cooperate with them and form a government with their help. What happened, happened. Only liars deny the past.

The Judea and Samaria Emergency Regulations, the Citizenship Law, the insistence on holding the Flag March in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, leaving the nation-state law in place and so on and so forth – all these “frogs” were eaten in the name of preserving the coalition government, and nothing happened. No signs of allergic reaction appeared on the body politic of the leftist parties or their voters. The “healing government” may not have cured the political ills, but it definitely managed to provide a few diagnoses. One is that in the left of the Labor Party and Meretz, they are less sensitive to frogs than they thought. The rash that Netanyahu’s government gave them wasn’t from the occupation or its attendant policies. They are allergic to something else. This diagnosis is important to anyone who seeks a political remedy to heal the society and the state. The challenge is to identify the allergen.

If the change government was a political experiment, it proved that Israel can no longer be understood as a society with a political draw between left and right. That is, there is a stalemate between two camps that prevents either one of them from governing, but the categories of right and left do not really decode the story for us; on the contrary, even: They may prevent us from understanding what is really going on.

What was it that made it possible for Shaked and Merav Michaeli and Tamar Zandberg and Bennett and Gaby Lasky and Lieberman and Sa’ar and Nitzan Horowitz and Omer Bar-Lev and Elkin to overcome their ostensibly unbridgeable ideological differences and work together? I ask this not to embarrass them (well, maybe a little) but rather in order to try to get closer to the intimate truth of Israeli politics, the one that can’t be discussed without an explosion and that hides behind terms such as “statesmanship,” “respect,” “decency” and “integrity.”

Facing a Jewish majority that is split in two – that, as the “experiment” proved, is divided not according to a political index of right and left but rather according to a different sense of belonging – some representatives of the Arab community are beginning to realize the lack of synchronization between audio and video. The sound says right and left, but the picture is in black-and-white. This is exactly what Abbas, with his sharp senses, picked up on. If the difference that constitutes the political division into camps is not right-left, then as a minority, automatic affiliation with the left is anachronistic. From this follows the willingness to cooperate with both sides, to the same extent. In this sense, credit must be given to Lieberman, whose departure from the right set off a migration of continents that has not yet stabilized.

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