“There is a prime minister in Israel who says that every leftist is an Israel hater and a collaborator with the enemy. What is this?” opposition leader Tzipi Livni fumed at a conference in Tel Aviv last week. Livni said that even though she once headed the centrist Kadima party, she wouldn’t use the term “center” to define Zionist Union.
In the current political climate, rife with attempts at persecution, silencing others and intimidating opponents of the occupation and the apartheidization of Israel, Livni’s words are a significant step in the right direction. They show a welcome change in the political strategy of Zionist Union, which in recent years has been characterized by an intentionally blurred political identity and ambiguous ideology. Hopefully this isn’t only an attempt to distinguish itself from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, but rather a strong stance on the leftist front, with head held high and without apologizing.
Isaac Herzog, who led the opposition in recent years, often described his party Zionist Union as “centrist.” Far be it for him to be branded by the right as a leftist.
In Livni’s statements, she actually admitted that Zionist Union had fallen prey to incitement by the right and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “There’s something that they have succeeded at – they’re making good people feel uncomfortable about their identity. Processes in society of becoming ideologically inured, of less willingness to speak out. We must in some way stand up for what we believe in.”
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Livni is right. The left has been the victim of incitement for a generation now, which Netanyahu began as opposition leader when he led opposition to the Oslo Accords. And the unbridled incitement against the left didn’t die down following Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. On the contrary, it spread and become fashionable political discourse and the main agenda of the right, especially Netanyahu.
Livni was speaking at Tel Aviv’s ZOA House, where 40 civil society organizations took part to coordinate their opposition agenda. “The various groups must understand that the story is the same story,” Livni said, explaining how all the laws and processes of the right-wing government are part of a general dangerous move seeing Israel strike a blow against equality. Instead, it is becoming a state based on Jewish law, annexing the territories, attacking the gatekeepers, silencing others and detaining left-wing activists at Ben-Gurion Airport.
At the end of her remarks, Livni called for a unified struggle. “Each of you deals with a different area,” she said. “We must rise above our differences. These disputes prevent us from fighting for the big issue.”
While this may be the right path for an opposition that hopes to stick around, it must not leave the groups Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem – which stand at the forefront of the battle against the occupation – out of the picture. The failure to invite them to the conference shows that the opposition still has a long way to go.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.