What a relief that the election is behind us. No more moronic political
advertising where a rabbi dressed in blue curses the “Jewish Home” (Bayit
Yehudi) for being the home of “goyim,” another rabbi, with some sort of striped
pajamas, curses the price of bread, Shelly Yacimovich replaces chef Haim Cohen
in cooking lessons, the Western Wall is seen with the almighty, jubilant Bibi in
front, not to mention Brit Olam’s Ofer Lifschitz in the role of the
No more superficial redundant sloganeering of “a strong prime
minister for a strong Israel,” “Let’s make it a better place,” “We have come to
change” and other reflections of in-depth political philosophy.
outbursts of Israeli “modesty” – “Only we can bring security, peace, social
justice, a Greater Israel, legalized marijuana, etc.”
And yet the people
of Israel, despite their political leaders, took the democratic process
Some wanted a Greater Israel, some a smaller but more moral
one, some a democracy, some a theocracy, some peace, some confrontation, some
social justice, some raw capitalism.
In the end we have a party political
system of all of the above, a reflection of different “states” within one
• The State of Tel Aviv was won by the election surprise Yair
Lapid and Yesh Atid with 20.7 percent of the vote and the Center-Left with a 60%
majority. The Tel Aviv bubble is indeed, for most of its parts,
The more bohemian, cosmopolitan, hi-tech side of Israel, with
liberal values in regard to our democratic system and institutions, freedom of
speech and rights of minorities.
An economic outlook influenced by the
middle-class Rothschild Boulevard protests, combining the free market with
social justice, equal opportunity and a fairer share of duties and burdens,
mainly regarding the need for military or civil service for all as well as
participation in the workforce. A view of a changing world to which we have to
belong. A position on peace with the Palestinians based on the pragmatic
necessity to secure a Jewish majority rather than an ideological peace
• The State of Jerusalem, where United Torah Judaism and Likud
Beytenu won, each with a little over 20% of the vote, and the Right gaining the
support of 70% of our capital’s residents. Indeed, Jerusalem is the bastion of
the religious Right where the ultra-Orthodox have close to 40% support. A
Jerusalem with a belief in the supremacy of religious law and rabbis, where the
High Court of Justice is located, but not respected, and religious nationalism
prevails over liberal values. A worldview centered on ourselves, our superiority
and on being “a light unto the nations” rather than part of the family of
• The Periphery State in the South and the North, which was won
by Likud Beytenu with a third of the votes, and by the Right with
What was previously called the “second Israel” – those who
came after the creation of the state, from the Moroccan to the Russian
emigrations, as exemplified by the 20% vote for Shas. In many of the development
towns there is a strong sense of deprivation, without equal services or
opportunity. A rather nationalistic view of Israel in the region with a total
mistrust of Arabs and Arab neighbors.
• The State of the Settlers, with a
clear victory for the Jewish Home of Naftali Bennett with 28% of the vote and
the Right with 85% of the vote.
Small in numbers but big in influence –
Bennett-land. A view reflecting the ideology of a Greater Israel from the Sea to
the River in which Arabs are second-class citizens at best, if not candidates to
be transferred from their land. A worldview which more often than not reflects a
sort of Jewish racism, with its “price tag” movement, believing in violence and
threatening it in case of a political settlement with the Palestinians. Led and
guided by fanatic rabbis who preach against the law of the state, against
compromise and against compliance with military orders. A bitter pill somewhat
sweetened by the charming smile of Naftali Bennett, the articulate, hi-tech
leader, yet more authentically expressed by his colleague Orit Struck, the
racist lady of Hebron.
• The State of the Kibbutzim, where Labor won with
35.7% of the vote and the Center-Left with over 80%. What was once the symbol of
a reborn Israel is now a despairing part of the country, without a single
representative in the Knesset. A view of a social-democratic Israel with a
strong belief in the centrality of the worker, with greater social empathy and
equity and a disdain for the wealthy oligarchs. Also with a strong support for
democratic institutions and for peace with our neighbors.
The two centers
of Israel are indeed Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – 60 minutes and worlds apart,
between Mea She’arim and Sheinkin streets.
In this election the “State of
Tel Aviv” won. The outcome in Tel Aviv, with Lapid ahead, was duplicated in the
whole Dan district (over 40% of Israel’s population) in cities like Ramat Gan,
Givatayim, Herzliya, Ra’anana, Kfar Saba etc. The “State of Jerusalem,”
strengthened by its supporters in the West Bank settlements and the country’s
periphery, has been weakened in this election as the governing Likud Beytenu
lost a quarter of its power. The Likud party is down to only 20
Netanyahu and Liberman, with their extreme-right-wing list of
candidates, had hoped to continue their nationalistic policies against those who
were defined as the “enemies” on the Left – the judicial system, the press,
civil society, the Arab minority, all targeted by dangerous rhetoric and
legislation – and also against enemies abroad, from Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas),
their “non-partner,” to Barack Obama, whose defeat they had hoped
While Netanyahu gained a third term as prime minister, these trends,
which are dangerous to our very democracy, have, in all probability, been
stopped by the Israeli electorate.
Lapid has not been elected king, but
rather kingmaker. The move from 0 to 19 mandates is unprecedented and is
transforming the political landscape. It happened as a result of a series of
• The social protest of 2011 that brought hundreds of thousands to the
streets of Israel, mainly in Tel Aviv, was translated into a political protest
in favor of Lapid and Labor.
• The center of our business community
feared the growing international isolation brought about by the outgoing
government. Obama’s words about an isolated Israel were very much listened to by
those Israelis who still have much to lose.
• Most of the Israeli young
care less about Right or Left and more about a pragmatic “live and let live”
attitude. The most important outcome of the election is that the ongoing trend
to the Right has been stopped.
• Israelis are discouraged by old politics
and by politicians with an old mindset, hence the support for Lapid and Bennett
– the “new Israelis.”
• The election results also reflect a new dichotomy
in the Israeli attitude toward a peace settlement with the Palestinians.
Emotionally, most Israelis deeply mistrust the Arabs and don’t view them as
equals with equal rights – a result of the ongoing conflict and occupation – and
hence believe that there is no peace partner.
At the same time, Israelis
have moved to the Center-Left – 60% favor a two-state solution based on the ’67
borders in return for real peace and security. The result is greater pragmatism
in views, somewhere between Netanyahu and Lapid, and a far cry from the real
ideological peace camp of Meretz but with a parallel distancing from the
hard-core settlers’ belief in Greater Israel.
What then should be the
nature of the next coalition? Government has to reflect the people’s will – a
move to the Center, toward greater social empathy and equity, a stronger
democracy and a more pragmatic attitude toward peace negotiations and relations
with the United States. Translated into parties, that would mean a Likud-led
government with Netanyahu as prime minister, with Yesh Atid and Yair Lapid as a
main coalition partner (one hopes with Lapid as foreign minister) together with
Shas (if one wants to change policies on the military and civil service, it is
better to attempt a compromise with Arye Deri and Co.); with Tzipi Livni and
Hatnua with a role in the peace process and Kadima of Shaul Mofaz with a role in
This would leave us with an ideological opposition of Naftali
Bennett’s Jewish Home on one side and Meretz on the other, together with
Agudah/UTJ and the Arab parties. It was wrong for the prime minister not to
invite the Arab parties for talks on a future government, although there is no
chance of them joining. They are a legitimate part of our political system and
the higher voter turnout of the Israeli-Arabs was one of the most important
democratic outcomes of the election.
There are many difficult issues on
the next government’s agenda, beginning with the pressing need to present a
state budget with NIS 15 billion in cuts, to balance the share of social
opportunities and duties more fairly, to enact electoral reform, to face the
Iranian nuclear threat and regional instability and to restart the Israeli-
Palestinian peace process in coordination with the new US
Above all, the next government has to bring a dark period
in our modern history to an end. In the past four years Israel has, to a growing
degree, become a pariah state.
Not only were we strongly criticized by
all of our friends in the world for the self-defeating settlement expansion
policies that brought the peace process to a halt, we also endangered the very
foundations of our critical relationship with the West – the common values of
democracy and respect for human rights. The extremist, religious, right-wing
onslaught of our democratic institutions – on the High Court of Justice, the
free press and civil society, the attempts at racist legislation against Arabs –
have begun to place us outside of the Western family of respected nations. That
in itself is not only a moral weakening, but is threatening our very nature as a
Jewish, democratic state and also risks putting our national security in danger.
Furthermore, the lack of a peace policy and process also put in question our
role as a strategic partner to the West. These policies were defeated by the
It is now up to the liberal forces in the next
government, primarily Lapid’s Yesh Atid, to bring about a reversal of these
attitudes and policies.
It is also the responsibility of the prime
minister. Lapid, the man of the “Tel Aviv bubble,” is now the authentic
representative of liberal, pragmatic Israel and, as such, must take on a serious
leadership responsibility to reverse the deterioration in our democratic values
He must set this as the main, if not sole, condition
for joining the government.
Yair Lapid, as well as the rest of the next
government, has to understand that Israel lives in a changing, interconnected
and interdependent world, in which security, diplomacy and economy are
progressing through collective policies and measures led by the Obama
We can prosper only if we belong and share common values,
without giving up on our unique characteristics as a Jewish state. It is
therefore time for Yair Lapid, the man who represents the move from dangerous
ideologies to pragmatism and democracy, to burst the Tel Aviv bubble and create
the necessary bridge between Israel and the world.
The writer is
president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator
for the Oslo Accords.