The opposition’s role in a democracy is to criticize the government and do everything in its power, at all times, to topple it and replace it with a different one. If it doesn’t do so, it is betraying its responsibilities. But this basic rule appears to be unknown to Israel’s main opposition party, Zionist Union. Its members think the current government’s continued tenure is reasonable, at least under certain circumstances.
During the recent political crisis, Zionist Union’s senior Knesset members united against Avi Gabbay, chairman of the joint ticket’s main component, the Labor Party, and effectively prevented Benjamin Netanyahu’s government from being brought down (Chaim Levinson, March 15). Gabbay reacted to the chance of early elections the way any opposition leader should: He supported them and began preparing for them. But a united front of Zionist Union MKs, consisting of Shelly Yacimovich, Tzipi Livni, Isaac Herzog and Yoel Hasson, worked to thwart this possibility and, effectively, to ensure the continuation in office of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.
Their arguments were tactical, and they had plenty of excuses – for instance, it’s better to wait for the attorney general’s decision on whether to indict Netanyahu and then hold elections. But behind all these excuses stood the latest polls, which predicted that Zionist Union was heading for a crash. It’s now clear that the party deserves to crash, having lost whatever remained of its political path.
Israel’s opposition leaders were more concerned about their political future than the future of the country. In that, they are no different from the prime minister: Saving himself from indictment has become his driving motivation. No considerations of timing can excuse a main opposition party that thwarts elections, and perhaps also the chance to topple the government.
Zionist Union had a golden opportunity to put an end to this extreme right-wing government, whose damage to the country, some of which is irreversible, just keeps on growing. But Zionist Union preferred its own narrow considerations. After years of being suspected of aspiring to join the Likud-led government, this party has now also been revealed as one that betrays its role as an opposition.
In his Knesset speech, Netanyahu mocked Zionist Union’s leaders for being afraid of elections. He’s right. His opponents deserved his scorn.