Since I arrived in Israel I haven’t found a single Israeli that says he voted for Netanyahu, Likud, Israel Beteinu, or that confesses to be anything less than a respectful “lefty” with staunch liberal values. Considering the number of Israelis I know this makes Israeli elections work like the Immaculate Conception – no one had intercourse with the virgin, but she still got pregnant just like no one votes for Netanyahu, but he still gets elected prime minister.
For most people around world, Israel, its people, and political establishment are a right wing cause and a synonym for conservatism. No self-respecting conservative from Bali to Alaska has anything but nice words for Israel, and a pin with the Israeli flag on his best jacket. Unlike what they and most people think (even in Israel), the Israeli right wing’s hegemony is a recent phenomenon brought in more by outside security factors than by internal urges.
The Portuguese Communist Party (the only one in western Europe Stalinist enough to support the Soviet invasion of Prague) wrote on its newspaper in May 1948 that the creation of Israel was “a beacon of light in a pitch dark region”. As hard to conceive as it may be, for the first 25 years of its existence Israel, its Kibbutz movement, and vibrant democracy were the left wing symbols that all fascist dictatorships frowned upon, and that all leftists around the world defended. But then came 1973, the surprise attack by Egypt supported by the Soviet Union, and Nixon’s air bridge to defend a small country cowardly attacked by its larger neighbours. More importantly, the Israeli population got to know a rogue general with right wing views that disobeyed orders, broke enemy lines, and won the war with the revisionist principal that you cannot trust Arabs. Menachem Begin might have blamed his surprising 1977 election victory on Avoda’s softness on Arabs, but general Ariel Sharon had secured that victory months before on the sands of the Sinai.
Since then Israel lives in a permanent state of political blackmail. Security and militarism supported by the right stifle the internal political demands of the population – quality urban transportation, efficient and universal health care, public education, and social security that works for all. To help people choose security over rights, the right wing has had the help of the media and of a myriad of small parties created to push the centre of politics to the right. From the Russian ethnocentric Beteinu, to the fanatic Shaas, or to the most recent Likud spinoff Yesh Atid that masked itself as a center party to give its egocentric narcissistic leader Yair Lapid a sit in the cabinet and a chance to publicly shit on everything his father stood for.
With this climate of fear, when elections come any crappy Facebook post stating “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves” will be enough to remember 73 and scare the population into voting against its own interests.
The best example of this is the Tel Aviv left wing “bubble”. Everyone wants better public transportation, decreased house rents, and a holt to the gentrification of the city. Nevertheless no one in this sea of liberals can even elect a mayor to put forth that agenda. The cynicism of the Tel Aviv “bubble” towards the democratic process can also be seen in the latest trend, the Likud Chadashim (the new Likud). Left wing liberals, who feel alienated from politics and infiltrate Netanyahu’s party because they believe it’s the only option to participate in politics. This kind of confortable subservience to power and alienated laziness, is not bourgeois anymore, it’s catholic.
A third left wing force should push Meretz back to the left and open the center so that Avoda can dispute general elections with Likud.It’s time for the Israeli left to stop believing in the Immaculate Conception because they are the ones getting screwed.