Stripped of All Ideology

The expected outcome of the Labor central committee's vote to authorize its remaining in the government is yet another expression, a more blatant one than before, of the death of ideology in the Israeli political experience.

In his novel "Seeing," the Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a state in which 80 percent of the citizens of its capital cast a blank ballot during the elections. This is the way for the society the author has created to express its protest against the behavior of the heads of government. The Nobel laureate's message applies to all humanity and also to Israel at the end of 2006, on a day when Labor's Central Committee is being asked to vote on the party's future in the Olmert government, one including Avigdor Lieberman in its ranks.

The expected outcome of the central committee's vote, to authorize Labor's remaining in the Olmert government, is yet another expression, a more blatant one than before, of the death of ideology in the Israeli political experience. If Amir Peretz and Yuli Tamir are able to sit in the same government with Avigdor Lieberman, this is a sign that, once more, there is no meaning to words. Not only because the Labor leader had declared he will not agree to be a partner to Lieberman in running the affairs of state, but also because he and his party claimed to represent an opposing worldview and spirit to that of Yisrael Beitenu's founding father. While Lieberman approaches the electorate in a forceful, racist, simplistic and autocratic manner, Labor offered them a liberal, humane, complex and tolerant alternative.

The central committee members are being called upon this evening, by Peretz and the rest of the party's leadership, to betray their political and social path, to ignore all their promises to the voters and to abandon their declared statements and intentions. The request being put to the members of the central committee is not to indulge a single, limited, tactical diversion in the party's credo, but its complete abandonment. A party that called for reconciliation with the Palestinian people, for closer relations among the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, for an end to occupation, for the focusing of national efforts to narrowing the socioeconomic gaps, is now called upon by its leadership to grant backing and significant ability to influence to a political platform that seeks to intensify the Arab-Israeli confrontation, believes in violent methods and demands the rallying of most of the country's resources to that end.

The prognosis is that Ophir Pines-Paz, and the small band of MKs that have joined him, have no chance tonight to block the recommendation of Peretz and the rest of the ministers to accommodate Lieberman's inclusion in the government. Olmert knew to press the right buttons and push Peretz, Ephraim Sneh, Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and their colleagues to accept Yisrael Beitenu in the government and legitimize its views. Compliance has a dynamic of its own, and Labor's leaders are proving its validity anew: they are paying lip service to their hesitation, but are racing with certainty toward the finish line delineated by the prime minister. They are not exhibiting any originality in their excuses: "We will influence from within," "we will sharpen the difference between ourselves and the right," "we will stop the finger edging toward the trigger." Ehud Barak too, when he was prime minister, did not blink when he promised a secular government, and immediately set about forming a government with the Haredi parties; Ariel Sharon also, did not hesitate to turn his back on his commitment to the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip; and Olmert, too, is not blushing about abandoning the convergence plan.

Israeli politicians have not caught on to the connections between their cynicism and the indifference that has overcome the voters. They were flustered when voter turnout during the past elections was only 63.2 percent (compared to 80 percent in national elections until 2001.) They complained about the escapism that is reflected by the drop in the voter turnout over the last five years. And they are not quick to admit that the ease with which they throw away their promises affects the degree of confidence the public places in them, and causes it to give up on them. Israel is now being managed by Kadima, a ruling party that is no more than a wrapping created by advertisers, and by Labor, which tonight will uproot itself all by itself.