The rise of the contrarian opposition

Is the Israeli opposition becoming a group of anti-rightists lacking unique policies of their own?

June 26, 2017 22:33
2 minute read.
Israeli soldier

Israeli soldier casts his vote. (photo credit: IDF)


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During the last day of the 2017 Herzliya Conference, Education Minister Naftali Bennett participated in a live interview. He gave calculated and thoughtful answers to commentator Ze’ev Kam’s questions about education, Gaza, and other issues. It was well worth it to listen to Bennett and I felt like I gained something, even if I did not agree with Bennett’s politics.

Right after Bennett, MK Yair Lapid took the stage and gave a scathing address, condemning the current government as “corrupt” and even stating, “I have met more convicts in my five years in politics than in my entire life before that.” He talked about how “bored” the government had become with democracy. At one point, he even complained that no one knows his party’s policies because they are not “extremist” enough to be considered.

Toward the end of his address, Lapid said, “The prime minister has no plan... we have a plan.” Finally, I thought, hoping he would actually explain that plan, but instead he continued, “The first condition for the plan is that we stop harming each other.”

So, in short, Bennett gave a sophisticated talk while Lapid ranted about how corrupt the government is and complained that no one listens to him.

But Lapid’s address is worth listening to since it highlights a growing problem in the Israeli opposition: it seems to be moving away from substantive policy and toward simple contrarianism. In their public statements, leaders of the Left are increasingly using the limelight to slam the Netanyahu government. For example, later in the day, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On accused coalition members of being in a “game, the main rule of which there is a tough competition: who hates Arabs more?” She then used the rest of her address to enumerate condemnations, aimed mostly at Bennett.

What bothers me about this situation is not so much the condemnations themselves; some may actually be justified. Rather, as a liberal Israeli Jewish American from New York who likes to think of himself as part of the Left, I am confused by the fact that I can garner more inspiration from Bennett than from someone like Lapid or Gal-On. It feels like the leaders of the opposition have decided to discard substance, policy and ideology in favor of simply opposing everything the government does.

I want to hear opposition leaders articulate their own policies, rather than just the ones they oppose. After all, leftists like me are looking for someone to replace Netanyahu.

If this situation persists, then I, for one, may well end up going for someone like Bennett. That is, a politician that does not share my ideology but whom I can respect as an intelligent, articulate leader.

The author is a 20-year-old Jewish Israeli- American from New York City, currently studying for a BA in Israel at IDC Herzliya. He can be reached via email at

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