Why I Entered Politics

My greatest uncertainty since joining Israel's Labor Party one week ago is over whether it is indeed possible to influence reality from there.

A year and a half ago, I wrote an opinion piece on these pages saying that following Ehud Barak's departure from the Labor Party, all new parties and prospective candidates should give up running independently in the elections and join Labor.

True, it's more exciting to set up something new, I wrote, to mold your own values and ideas, to create something that didn't exist before. It is more difficult to continue in an existing system, to strengthen it and find creativity within it. It is easier to lead, to be the one who decides, rather than to be part of an existing body that perhaps forces you to give up primacy. It's not easy but it's the right thing to do. Joining in this way will give the parties and their new members strength, extra capacity, credibility, energy and true renewal. And also a kind of trendiness - a feeling that something is right and ... new.

I wrote that Israel needs large, strong parties today that are characterized by continuity and development; parties that have people who are hungry to do things, innovators who see themselves as part of the general public and not soloists. And Israel needs parties that want and are able to hold ideological debates, to take ideological decisions and act according to them. At the time of writing, I really, but really didn't plan to join in myself. I wrote, as I always do, something I believed in. I wrote, as I always do, something political.

As long as I can remember, I've been a political woman. One who understands that everything is political. The American feminist Gloria Steinem wrote that a woman can either be a feminist or a masochist. Feminism is political and political issues are the forces at work in society and in the state, the use that is made of them and the division of power. Politics is the balance of power. Economics, health, religion, law, sex, children and even the double bed are all political issues. Even the statement "it's not political" is a political position and act. Since I am a political woman, I've never tried to hide my political positions. As such, I've never fitted into any of the definitions or slots. Among other things, I've never separated between my two kinds of activities: My social activities always influenced my journalistic activities and vice versa. In every framework in which I participated, I always acted out of commitment to my political positions.

It is with that same commitment that I now enter politics, the arena in which people deal in the most concrete way with political issues. The space in which there is power to create a reality, to change reality, to have an influence. That is the place where the budgets are divided, where it is decided who pays and how much, who receives and how much; it is there that the resources and opportunities have to be divided anew on an egalitarian basis. That is the place in which Israeli democracy is molded and it is there that every woman and man must be allowed to live according to their religion or belief, including the secular and the non-Jews. That is the place where decisions are made about war and where an effort has to be made to take decisions also about peace.

In the week since I joined the Labor Party, I've been asked without pause, "What do you need it for?" in a tone that makes it clear that politics is something very dirty and inferior and despicable. It is accepted practice to say that many politicians have earned that reputation by their own deeds, but it is this attitude in itself that creates politics of that kind. The public's lack of trust in the sincerity of the intentions of those active in the arena reduces their authority and ability to act as its representatives. That's human nature. A cynical and disdainful attitude leads to the building of cynical and disdainful defenses.

My greatest uncertainty was over whether it is indeed possible to influence reality from there. I don't know. I can merely say to myself that if it turns out that it's not possible, I won't stay there. Meanwhile I'm holding on to SMS messages that I received from a former senior figure in the civil service who is not a personal friend of mine. He wrote: "Despite all the pitfalls and frustrations that there'll certainly be, always remind yourself that you're doing something important and significant for a large public." May it be so.