With Labor as the Israeli Left, We Don't Need the Right

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Cold comfort: We finally have an opposition worthy of its name, small perhaps, but a fighting opposition. And now we have a proper left, limited in size but ideologically motivated. Before armed security guards take up their positions in the new opposition leader's armored car, before people are enamored with the new Labor Party, full of ideas and lacking the opportunism of its predecessor in the opposition, Kadima, let's remember who we're talking about.

Labor is outside the current government, but that's not how some of its MKs like it. They were forced to leave the government after Ehud Barak left their party and established Atzmaut. MKs Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Avishay Braverman, the new opposition's fighters, never considered leaving the government, the one they're so harshly criticizing now, until Barak forced their hand. They stuck with it and held on to their seats, very pleased with the government and its prime minister, until they were dishonorably discharged.

We should remember this, now that we're hearing their barrages of criticism of Kadima, which dared to join the same government they had been forced to leave. Herzog, who is now referring to an "alliance of cowards," was a senior member of the alliance. Ben-Eliezer, who now talks about the "rubbish," swam in that rubbish, perhaps even more than the rest. For months they promised to leave the government, promised and promised. Then their world came tumbling down when they were forced to actually do it.

True, Shelly Yacimovich opted to stay out of the government, and for this she is worthy of praise. But behind her stand these opportunists - something not much different than Kadima. If they could, they would, even now, rush back into the cabinet. Ben-Eliezer, Herzog and Braverman could teach Shaul Mofaz a lesson in opportunism. The only difference is the degree: Mofaz heads the Knesset's largest faction, so he was invited and they weren't. We should remember this before we're impressed by the new royal opposition.

Anyone who expects the new opposition leader to lead the new Israeli left is in for a bitter disappointment. Much ink has been spilled on Yacimovich's cowardly avoidance of the occupation issue, which she describes as an "issue of borders" and a "diplomatic issue," as if it were a minor technical problem, not Israel's most crucial issue in terms of morality and values. But with her appointment as opposition leader, it's impossible to ignore this terrible moral erosion that Yacimovich is leading; it isn't different from the nationalist right's line, which knowingly pushes the occupation to the sidelines of public awareness, an annoying and tedious repetition.

It was very interesting to hear Friday, at the left-wing conference organized by Peace Now in Tel Aviv, what Yacimovich's people had to say: Yair Fink, her aide with a skullcap, Michal Biran, the head of the party's young guard, and Yechiel Bar, the party's secretary general. In line with their leader's philosophy, they explained that the "political" issue must be dealt with only after the "social" issue. The focus on the "political," they parroted, won't get their party anywhere. And in any case, they repeated by rote, Yacimovich has said she "supports the Clinton formula." With that she feels she has done her bit.

It's amazing to see how Labor continues to clone such old young people. How can the young people of the party most responsible for the occupation - Israel Galili more than Yaakov Katz, Shimon Peres more than Menachem Begin - not understand that the left's representatives, who talk about social justice and ignore the occupation, are the biggest racists and nationalists? After all, what are they saying? They're saying social justice, but for Jews (or Israelis ), alone. And what could be more racist or nationalist than that?

At the end of his speech, one Labor representative said that every bit of criticism by this author "only adds another seat in parliament for Labor." So here I've made a modest contribution to the number of seats of the rising opposition party, Israel's left-wing party. With this Labor we don't need Kadima. With this left we don't need the right.

Read this article in Hebrew