Herzog meets with Abbas in Ramallah.
(photo credit: OFFICE OF ISAAC HERZOG (LABOR))
Last week it was reported that Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union, is considering employing veteran Israeli campaign manager Reuven Adler in a last-minute attempt to salvage the party’s election campaign.
While the Zionist Union seemed to be gaining momentum in the early weeks of the campaign, latest polls indicate that it now lagging behind the Likud Party. Some have suggested that the Zionist Union’s campaign of “it’s either us or him” was simply ineffective, while others claim that it could not have been effective as it contains no actual message.
This “non-campaign” has prompted the Zionist Union’s youth association to launch their own independent campaign under the banner, “Only a sucker votes for Netanyahu.”Keep up to date on the latest opinion pieces on our new Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
Surprisingly, both the Zionist Union’s official campaign and the “sucker” campaign focus solely on economic issues without ever mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
To date, neither Isaac Herzog nor Tzipi Livni have presented Israeli voters with their vision for the resolution of this conflict. This may be a result of the common misconception that Israel’s Left can only defeat Netanyahu by focusing on economic disparities as it has no solution to offer.
Unlike the Zionist Union, right-wing parties such as the Likud and Bayit Yehudi presented Israelis with their vision for the future of the Palestinian conflict during Operation Protective Edge. Leaders of both parties expressed a conceptual shift wherein Israel no longer hopes to resolve the conflict but rather it aims to manage it. Managing the conflict according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett means bi-annual violent confrontations with Hamas along with the continued existential limbo of West Bank Palestinians living under a semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority.
The conceptual shift offered by right-wing parties is viable thanks to the rift between the Hamas-held Gaza and the Fatah-held West Bank. As Prime Minister Netanyahu is unwilling to negotiate with Hamas, he is able to call for peace without ever having to actually achieve it. For Netanyahu, this isn’t a strategy of divide and conquer but rather divide and prosper.
However, not all Israelis subscribe to the Right’s new paradigm. Such is the case with those living in Israel’s south whose lives have become a never-ending cycle of rocket barrages and alarm sirens. During Operation Protective Edge, these citizens felt abandoned and betrayed by the Netanyahu government which knew of terror tunnels leading into Israeli towns and kibbutzim yet did nothing to demolish them. Faced with the prospect of continuous violent altercations with Hamas, these citizens may be the first to vote against the Right’s new conflict management policy.
In addition, there are those middle class Israelis who are no longer willing to pay the price of war. To them, affordable day care, affordable housing and affordable education are more important than the final status of the Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
At the moment, these Israelis tend to vote for either Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid or Koolanu leader Moshe Kahlon as both focus on socioeconomic issues. Yet these Israelis could be swayed to vote for the Zionist Union if it offered a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which would also impact Israel’s economic prosperity as the two are inherently linked.
The high tax burden placed on the Israeli middle class is, in part, a result of military and security expenditure. Social and economic welfare programs are also the first to be scrapped when a new security menace emerges. Even our national budget, drafted each year and approved by the Knesset, is but a formality as violent outbursts between Israel and the Hamas necessitate the transfer of billions of shekels to the IDF, not to mention the toll such outburst take on Israel’s economy.
If the Zionist Union truly wishes to win these elections it must present its solution to the Palestinian conflict, a solution that would ensure the ongoing security of Israel’s southern region and the economic property of its lower and middle class thereby gaining the support of two large groups of voters. This solution includes open Israeli support for the formation of a Palestinian unity government which includes Hamas.
Only when such a government is formed, and recognized by Israel, will we be able to negotiate a final peace accord opposite one Palestinian entity that represents all Palestinians. Stating that they would be willing to support, and recognize, a Palestinian unity government would be a daring move by Herzog and Livni as they would immediately be branded as members of the “delusional” Left. Yet as all Israelis are taught in basic training, only he who dares wins.
The author is concluding his Mass Media Studies at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and 972online magazine. He blogs at www.digdipblog.com.