Opinion |

The Israeli Left's Condescension

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Labor Party lawmakers stand around party leader Merav Michaeli following the party's primary elections on Tuesday.
Labor Party lawmakers stand around party leader Merav Michaeli following the party's primary elections on Tuesday.Credit: Moti Milrod
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Anyone with an ideological alternative to offer must fight the right wing to the very end. Anyone with better leadership to offer must do everything possible so that it can be in power. Israel’s center-left, sadly, has neither. And yet it wages war on the Likud-led right. This is a legitimate war, but most of it is based on condescension. It’s the only ammunition that remains when the quiver is empty. That’s how it is when there is no ideological or leadership alternative. Condescension is the weapon of the shallow.

The center-left bloc has no reason, and no justification, for condescending to Likud, mocking its representatives and ridiculing its voters. The quality of Likud’s Knesset slate, on average, does not fall short of the average quality of the slates of most other parties. The mechanism that selected the composition of the ticket is surely the most impressive of all the parties in its scope and in how democratic it is.

Condescension toward Likud is not only unfounded, it also helps to further unite and strengthen the right. There is nothing like feelings of inferiority and a sense of humiliation to fill an entire political camp with righteous anger against those who elicit these emotions.

The overt and covert insults which a large part of the media continues to visit upon the Bibi-ists, the baboons or garden-variety Likudniks are a fuel whose fire won’t easily be extinguished. They will not forget these humiliations, just as they haven’t forgotten Mapai’s humiliations of the 1950s and 60s. The right has been in power for a generation, but the struggle against it is still that of those who consider themselves to be superior in their own eyes and the people they consider inferior to them.

Likud held a primary. It was as proper, as popular, as democratic as is possible in an apartheid state and given the political horse-trading that holds sway in Israel. Before the votes were even counted, the chorus began: one-man party, a bad slate filled with yes-men. There’s no point in even mentioning how candidates are chosen in Yesh Atid, New Hope, Kahol Lavan or Yisrael Beiteinu. Their definition is a point in asking how it is that the one-person rule of these parties, which also has elements of a cult of personality, elicits scant criticism from the connoisseurs of Israel’s vaunted democracy.

There are just as many yes-men in these parties as in Likud, and anyone who steps out of line is removed summarily. Mapai rule, with its infamous arrangements committees, was a model of democracy compared to the so-called democratic candidate selection method of Yair Lapid, Avigdor Liberman, Benny Gantz or Gideon Sa’ar, those determined warriors against Benjamin Netanyahu in the name of concern for democracy.

Nor does the center-left have ground to condescend to Likud In terms of elected officials. The quality of Israeli politicians is low, and often shameful, but Likud has nothing to be ashamed of compared to other lists. Is Amir Ohana a less impressive figure than Nitzan Horowitz? Is Galit Distal Atbaryan indeed as ludicrous a legislator as she is often depicted? How is she worse than Efrat Rayten? And David Amsalem, how is he any worse than Mickey Levy? And Danny Danon than Meir Cohen? Is Merav Ben Ari better by any measure than Gila Gamliel?

Would that we had more impressive, serious and courageous candidates on the slates – such is the face of Israeli politics – but to think that we have a slate of Bibi-ists facing one of reformers, baboons versus democrats, invertebrates against vertebrates is ludicrous and infuriating.

The next election brings with it no promise, whatever its results. Israel will continue in its path. There is no cause to give much heed to the anti-Likud scare campaigns. The sky won’t fall. There is also no cause to yearn for a centrist regime. No new dawn will rise. But when one camp is condescending toward another, with no apparent reason, it in effect is saying: I have nothing to offer you, apart from condescension.

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