Noam Schalit 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
When Noam Schalit announced just over two months ago that he had decided to run for the Knesset on the Labor list, public reactions were mixed. While Laborites, who were not personally familiar with Noam, were delighted to learn that the dignified, soft-spoken, introverted father of Gilad Schalit sees himself as a Social Democrat, others, especially in the political Right, expressed reservations and even anger.
One of the reasons for this was that many viewed Noam Schalit as taking cynical political advantage of the saga of his son, released from his Gaza captivity on a massive wave of public sympathy.
Another reason was that right-wingers viewed Noam’s choice of the Labor Party as a slap in the face to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had taken the decision to release 1027 Palestinian prisoners and detainees, many of them “with blood on their hands,” in order to secure Gilad’s release.
There is no doubt that had it not been for Gilad’s abduction and captivity, no one would ever have heard about Noam Schalit – an engineer from the Northern periphery who lost his twin brother in the Yom Kippur War. The struggle to save his son exposed Noam to massive media attention, which he did not seem very comfortable with, but it also exposed him on a daily basis, for five-and-a-half years, to how things get done in Israel, and how one can get the best out of the Israeli public.
Does this justify his decision to run, or say anything about his suitability to serve as an effective Knesset Member? Only time will tell. For the time being he hasn’t come across as someone with a clear agenda, a burning desire to realize an agenda, or an inkling of an idea what he will do in the Knesset if and when he becomes an MK.
As to his “audacity” in choosing Labor rather than Likud – here it is his critics who are not only audacious, but totally oblivious to the true meaning of democratic political choice. To add insult to injury, there have been insinuations (though admittedly no more than insinuations) in what many of the critics have been saying, that had they known the Schalit family had left-wing leanings, they would not have supported the deal with the Hamas so enthusiastically.
There is no doubt that the Schalit family is sincerely grateful to Netanyahu, though in an interview with Amnon Levy last Wednesday on TV Channel 10, Noam stated quite frankly that he believes a much better deal could have been closed much earlier, and that what finally convinced Netanyahu to act were the opinion polls that showed that a massive majority of the population was in favor of the deal.
At the same time, the fact that Netanyahu was the one who acted does not mean that Noam Schalit has a duty to follow him politically. In fact, Noam has been a registered member of the Labor Party since 1996 (soon after Rabin’s assassination).
While he supports Shelly Yacimovich as leader of the Labor Party, the fact that Yacimovich did not take an active part in the campaign for Gilad’s release neither disappointed him nor changed his ideology or political inclinations. He is in the Labor Party because that is where he feels he belongs.
Noam Schalit is now feeling his way in the Labor Party’s political quagmire. It is impossible to know whether the members of the party will vote him into the party list toward the elections to the 19th Knesset, and if they do whether he will be elected as a national representative, or as the representative of the Northern district.
Supposedly all this will depend on whether he receives the active support of Yacimovich and other central party figures, and on the impression he makes on party members voting in the primaries.
As a voter, I’ve participated in Labor Party primaries for the Knesset list and supported candidates for whom I felt personal sympathy; whose positions have been to my liking, and who I believed could be effective MKs. Another consideration, for the voters, has always been to end up with a list that is heterogeneous in its makeup, and with maximal appeal to a wide range of potential voters.
There should, however, be no doubt that Noam Schalit has a right to contend in the elections to the 19th Knesset, like anyone else who is not prohibited from running. As for his motives – they are neither more nor less legitimate than those of anyone else.The writer teaches at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College and was a Knesset employee for many years.