During the 1959 Knesset election campaign, a friend, who supported Herut, said
to me: “There is no chance of deposing Mapai, so I am not sure it is worth
bothering to go out and vote.” Indeed, it took another 18 years before the
conditions ripened for a political upheaval. Today it is the liberals and social
democrats who look at the statistics and conclude that there is no chance of
deposing the right wing-religious coalition.
Some of them take the
conclusion a step further, as my friend did 54 years ago, and are planning to
stay home on election day, or to insert a blank ballot paper into the ballot
box, as suggested by former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval
I strongly disagree with this attitude. The main reason for my
objection is that my study of history has convinced me that “what goes up must
come down” and vice versa, and that while a linear approach to events such as is
reflected in such books as H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) George Orwell’s
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1932), which takes certain current phenomena to their
absurd extreme, might be interesting, it does not reflect the true course of
Returning to the current reality in Israel, most analyses of
developments in the foreseeable future deduce that all sections of the religious
sector in Israel will continue to grow numerically; that a growing number of
Israelis will reach the conclusion that due to developments in the Arab world a
settlement with the Palestinians, no matter how desirable, is currently an
illusory utopia; and that the realities of the modern economy mean that it is
totally unrealistic to expect the state to be able to afford all the goods and
services which those who believe in the welfare state expect it to
All this suggests that Israel turning into a Jewish theocracy,
annexing the West Bank while pooh-poohing the world, and becoming an even less
egalitarian state than it is today is more likely than Israel strengthening its
liberal and pluralistic characteristics, remaining a state that is both
democratic and Jewish in terms of its essence, and offering all its citizens an
equal chance to succeed in life.
But is this really what will happen? Not
IF ISRAEL continues to gallop in its current direction,
sooner or later it will hit the brick wall of reality. This means not only the
world (including the United States) turning its back on Israel as it did in the
past to South Africa, but Israelis themselves starting to realize something is
very wrong, and that in order to avoid the destruction of the metaphorical Third
Temple, some serious changes of heart are required.
With this in mind,
the Labor, Hatnuah and Yesh Atid parties must carefully consider what they
should do after the elections on January 22. Should they strive to join
Netanyahu’s next coalition with the intention of avoiding the creation of a
government both more right-wing and more religious than the outgoing one? Or
should they all refuse resolutely to join the coalition and let Netanyahu stew
in his own juices for the next four years.
I must admit I am not of one
mind on this issue.
On the one hand I am truly concerned about what is
happening in Israel, which is the only country I am willing to consider living
in (I am not one of the 40 percent of Israelis reported to be considering
leaving the country), and despite my reservations regarding Ehud Barak and his
conduct in the course of the 18th Knesset, I frequently felt relieved by his
presence as a “responsible adult” in the outgoing
Furthermore, I would much rather have someone from the
Center-Left camp in the Interior Ministry than an individual who would fit in
very nicely in the Middle Ages, where he believes the inhabitants of the Gaza
Strip belong (at least that is what Eli Yishai said in the course of Operation
Pillar of Defense). The same applies to several other ministries.
other hand, if the Center-Left parties join the government, the chance for a
real change of heart within the Israeli electorate will be missed, for such a
change of heart will only occur once the citizens of Israel experience the true
impact of a pure right wing-religious government, without any internal checks
and balances or airbags to absorb the impact.
A second reason for
advocating that the Center-Left parties remain in opposition is the pathetic
experience of Shaul Mofaz’s joining the Netanyahu government last May, when
Netanyahu could have performed a real revolution in many spheres, including
integration of the haredim, and chose to miss the opportunity.
no reason to believe that as long as Netanyahu has a Right-religious majority,
he will voluntarily opt for a softer, more liberal course, which is apparently
contrary to his DNA.
Thirdly, it is important for the Israeli democratic
system that the concept of “Opposition” be taken more seriously. One of the
reasons I am not going to vote for Tzipi Livni, despite her brave confrontation
of the issue of our relations with the Palestinians, her honesty and integrity,
is that she was a totally ineffective opposition leader.
It is a great
shame that Shelly Yacimovich’s announcement last week that she would not join
Netanyahu’s next government under any circumstances came against the background
of Labor’s failure to pick up in the polls, rather than a solid weltanschauung.
But it remains to be seen whether we shall see another back-flip by Yacimovich,
or what Lapid and Livni will decide after the elections.
It isn’t over
until it is over.
The writer is a former Knesset employee.