Israeli Elections and the Death of the Political Left

December 19, 2012 1:36 pm 4 comments

A Likud campaign poster.

What a difference a month makes. Not so long ago we in Israel were digesting the results of the decision of the American people to choose the nice guy over the capable one, and now we are at a cusp of our own elections, the interesting part of which has ended with the submission of party lists. While the Israeli Right presented a unified front to the voters, integrating for the first time the electoral power of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the Left (or “the Center”, which is how the Israeli parties formerly known as Left wing prefer to be called nowadays) has splintered, divided and defected to the very end, amusing and disgusting potential voters with dazzling displays of egotism.

Unity of purpose has a powerful impact on the Israeli Right-wingers. Gone are the ideological splinter parties – today the selection of options on the Right is logical and simple. The tandem team of Netanyahu and Lieberman for all those who simply want Netanyahu to remain in power; the “Jewish Home” party of Naftali Bennett for those who vote Right on values, and the “Might for Israel” party of Kahane flavor for those who REALLY dislike Arabs and African infiltrators (contrary to the Liberal doom-and-gloom Jeffrey Goldberg-style pronouncements, those “extremists” aren’t gaining ground and are struggling to pass the electoral minimum barrier). The power of the Right is so manifest that nobody takes seriously any threats from Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich, or the Chairwoman of the new “The Movement” party of Tzipi Livni (formerly of “Kadima”) that they are going to unseat Netanyahu and change the course of the country.

While the personal struggles, defections and self-aggrandizement of the self-appointed “leaders” of the Israeli Left-Center made the run-up to the elections a very colorful show indeed, the personal crises are only a symptom of the ideological debacle. There are only two party lists who state as their highest priority the renewal of the “peace process” at any cost – the Livni list and the far-left Meretz. In the most recent survey they polled 13 mandates out of 120 combined, and Meretz activists have expressed fear that the defection of their supporters to Livni could leave them out of the next Knesset altogether. The Labor party, which appears set to return to its traditional strength of less than 20 mandates, has not renounced “peace”, yet Yachimovich does everything in her power to convince everyone who is not pleased with the economic policies of Netanyahu to give her a chance, and that means treading softly on Leftist hot-button issues like settlements and Jerusalem. Her determination not to be distracted from her chosen path (and not to share power within the party) brought about the high-profile defection of former Labor Chairman, Godfather of the “Iron Dome” Amir Peretz, who evidently hoped to take his newfound popularity to Tzipi Livni but has so far failed to make a dent.

It’s not like Netanyahu’s position is unassailable. Whatever the results will be after the vote on January 22nd, the Israeli government’s “to-do” list will make very depressing reading. Having betrayed his economic principles out of fear of street protests last year, Netanyahu has raised public spending, increased the direct tax rate and will now be presented with a bill – 2012 will end with a three-billion-NIS-wide budget hole and reduced estimates for tax receipts. The budget deficit will be twice as large as was estimated and the prognosis for 2013 is not good either. The new government will be forced to cut spending by as much as 15 billion shekels and to raise taxes again if the main export markets of the Jewish state – the European Union and the United States – do not recover at a much faster pace than in 2012.

On the other hand, who can criticize Netanyahu for his newfound love for direct taxation, wasteful spending and his deals with powerful unions? Definitely not Shelly Yachimovich, who is the boon companion of Histadrut union boss Ofer Eini and whose economic platform simply amounts to more taxes and more spending? Avigdor Lieberman was a committed economic liberal who wasn’t afraid to criticize the tent protesters – but now Lieberman is Netanyahu’s number two. The rest of the competition are simply not considered by the Israeli public as serious contenders in the economic arena.

If Netanyahu’s economic reputation is about to take a hit, his handling of the recent operation in Gaza has hurt him in the polls already. Regardless of the duplicitous American position, which on the one hand proclaimed Israel’s right to self-defense while on the other hand pushed Jerusalem to agree to the Egyptian terms of the cease-fire, Netanyahu, Lieberman and Barak never intended to re-occupy Gaza and depose the Hamas regime. When it is not firing rockets at Israeli civilians or burrowing under the security fence to kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border, Hamas serves as a trump card for Israeli efforts to prevent any serious attempt to award the PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with any status he shouldn’t have. No true statehood is possible while Abbas doesn’t control Gaza, no meaningful negotiations on borders and security, and of course no possible reconciliation between the Arabs and the Jews. Nothing emphasized this more than the visit to Gaza by the Hamas Politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, who is considered “pragmatic” by certain Europeans and American liberals. Every statement made by Meshaal was propaganda gold for Israel.

Nevertheless, the Israeli public and the reservists who were called up to serve, essentially, as props for negotiations between Israel, Egypt, Hamas and Hillary Clinton, were not amused by the abrupt ending of military operations. Just like four years ago, the public wanted to see Hamas destroyed. The celebrations of the terrorists in Gaza stuck in Israelis’ craw, especially since this time, the IDF didn’t manage to kill any significant number of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, limiting itself to attacks on gang leaders and rocket crews. The “victory” of Hamas, coupled with the hollow triumph of Abbas in the UN, promises the renewed prospect of violence in Judea and Samaria. And it’s not like Netanyahu has nothing to do with the rise of Hamas – even before operation “Pillar of Defense”, his decisions to dismantle the land blockade of the Gaza Strip after the “Mavi Marmara” flotilla incident and to exchange Gilad Shalit for more than a thousand terrorists have bolstered Hamas’ image as a successful “resistance force” at Abbas’ and Fatah’s expense.

Four years ago, Netanyahu and Lieberman stood before cameras at the end of operation “Cast Lead”, attacked the Kadima government for its “indecision,” and promised to wipe out Hamas. Now, there isn’t any political force left to call them to account. For all their vows to abide by “Rabin’s legacy”, the Israeli Left has forsaken the muscular component of this legacy. Rabin was a great believer in peace from strength. Neither Labor nor Livni no Yair Lapid can credibly assert their intention to deliver peace with Palestinian moderates while destroying Hamas.

The only card left to play for Livni is the foreign one – she attempts to scare the public with prophecies of impending collapse of Israel’s relations with Europe and Washington. The problem with that argument of course, is that the reaction of the Israeli public to the wild denunciations from abroad of building plans in Jerusalem is increasingly cynical. Polls showed that a majority bought into Livni’s argument that the building announcements are politically motivated – and supported them nevertheless. Livni’s insistence that Barack Obama is Israel’s friend and the blame for poor relations between the two countries must fall on Netanyahu is about to be sorely tested by the appointment of prominent Israel-basher Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. No Israeli government could accommodate Hagel’s ideas on appeasement of Iran and legitimization of Hamas, no friend of Israel can overlook his suggestion that support of the Jewish state is somehow incompatible with loyalty to America. Choosing Hagel will send a clear signal that Obama wishes to confront Netanyahu, not to cooperate with him. Those who, like Rahm Emanuel, believe that such a confrontational stance will cower Israelis into submission and change the electoral map will wake up on January 23rd with a well-deserved headache.

4 Comments

  • “the decision of the American people to choose the nice guy over the capable one”

    It’s hard to take anything you say seriously when you write this. If there’s anything clear, it’s that Mitt Romney was one of the most hapless candidates in history. His much vaunted IT program Orca failed to function on election day http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/11/inside-team-romneys-whale-of-an-it-meltdown/. He missed the rather obvious fact that white males are a dwindling minority of the electorate. His economic ideas would have plunged us back into recession. His pandering to the reactionary right cut off any hope of Americans treating him as reasonable on issues related to immigration and women’s rights. And his articulation of ideas made most Americans view him as a man out of time, more appropriate for the 1950s than the 21st century. There’s a good reason why most Jews turned away from Mitt Romney — we prefer competence to pandering. And for the record, I don’t view Obama as a nice guy — I view him as arrogant, standoffish, introverted, humorless.

    • elliot j. stamler

      I emphatically DO think Pres. Obama is a nice guy-a very nice guy-other than that I agree with the sentiments in this comment.

  • MILINDA RATNASURIYA

    FOR THAT THEY HAVE NOTHING BUT TO BLAME THEM SELVES !!! THEY WERE TOO DOVISH !!! SO THE ISRAELIS REJECTED THEM !!!

  • You outline a bleak and depressing picture of Israeli reality – the demise of the centre left and the emergence of an intransigent right, which feels that it can ignore the world and treat US with contempt.
    Obama is the President of the United States of America. He has no legal or moral obligation to grant Israel a blank cheque. US support of Israel is conditional that the wishes and interests of US are factored in by Israel when making decisions. Should Israel fail to do so, the US support can be either watered down or withdrawn completely. Surely Israelis must understand this.
    The appointment of Chuck Hagel is not a betrayal of Israel, rather an unambiguous reminder that US has legitimate interests of its own. The decision to build in the E1 zone has been universally condemned and Israel must take note of this.
    We may be the Chosen People, but sadly the Wisdom of Solomon has not been bestowed on the current leadership.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.