The clamor over Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s move to leave the Labor party this week is a stark reminder that many Israeli politicians simply don’t understand the world they live in. For a long time, it has been clear to many Israelis that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni is one of the leaders of this pack.
Ever since the last election, Barak has led a party divided against itself. Four or five of the 13 Labor MKs never supported the party’s membership in the governing coalition, and of those who did and became government ministers, one resigned from the Knesset and at least two others made constant noises about Labor needing to leave. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon went on record on Monday stating that “at times it felt like there were 5 different factions within the party.” For a party of only 13 seats to begin with, that was quite an achievement.
Getting little or no support from his own backbenchers, Barak on Monday imploded the party, taking four people with him to form a new faction, and leaving the remainder to tread their own water in the opposition. Opposition Leader Livni – she of the Kadima faction formed when former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did exactly the same thing with his Likud party in 2005 – responded Tuesday by calling Barak’s move “the dirtiest act” in history.
Livni was one of the leading members of Sharon’s own “nuclear option” just five years ago. But let us remember that when Sharon attempted to blow up the Likud, he was not just a party leader taking his loyalists with him to solidify his control. He was the prime minister and leader of what was then by far Israel’s largest party. The Likud at the time controlled twice as many seats as its nearest opponent.
Furthermore, the unrest in the Likud at the time stemmed from the unwillingness of Sharon and his allies to accept the decisions of his own party’s institutions. Against the better judgment of Likud’s nationwide membership, Sharon, Livni, Olmert and their cronies pushed ahead with the expulsion of close to 10,000 Jewish Israelis from their homes in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria – a move that brought terrorism closer to central Israel, increased the threat on places like Sderot, and emboldened our enemies with a blood lust that is an even greater threat today than it was then. In no way can the “Disengagement Plan” be considered a success.
The Likud recovered from Sharon’s treachery, and today leads a stable government – over the complaining and whining from the Kadima party that is Sharon’s sad legacy.
Ehud Barak’s move is almost the exact opposite of the move that created Kadima. The Labor party’s institutions consistently backed Barak’s policies and positions over those of his challengers, and it was his opponents within the party caucus who were operating as loose cannons, disregarding the will of the party membership and preferring their own slide to the left over what Israeli voters and the majority of its politicians consider to be the national interest.
For many years, the Israeli left has abandoned most pretenses of remaining true to the founding ethos of the State of Israel: Zionism, which Wikipedia defines as the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. The result is that the parties traditionally aligned with the Israeli left – Meretz and Labor – have been decimated in recent elections, a clear indication that Zionism is still alive and well among the Israeli population.
At Barak’s press conference announcing the split, he took the opportunity to call out his former party colleagues for abandoning that aim and advocating policies that aim to undermine the foundations of the State of Israel, saying that "It wasn''t always healthy and good for Labor. We noticed a shift towards the Left and post-Zionism."
Almost immediately, his comments led Livni to whine that, "For Barak to call whoever wants peace post-Zionist is unheard of."
Livni’s comments show, perhaps, the biggest problem with Kadima. Whereas the majority of voters in the country are unprepared to abandon the Zionist ideal, leaders like Sharon and Livni and the remaining Labor party members of Knesset have no such compunctions. They are prepared to abandon Jewish communities throughout Israel, kicking Jews out of their own homes in the process, all in the name of something called “peace”. It is that slide to the left, not the true desire for peace shared by all Israelis, that Barak branded as “post-Zionism”.
Post-Zionists see little need for the Jewish nation occupy its historic homeland. They are prepared to leave part, or even all, of that homeland for a piece of paper that would ultimately prove worthless. But it is specifically Zionism that will ensure peace for our nation into the future.
Peace cannot come over our dead bodies. It must come through, and it must preserve, the strength and independence of the Jewish nation in the land of Israel. Without that basic element, any “peace” arrangement is completely meaningless.
Livni’s own tenure as foreign minister showed her lack of ability to grasp this fundamental truth. At the Annapolis Conference, representing the party of the Disengagement Plan, she was overtly shunned by the Palestinian delegation. And when the issue was raised of Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people – the very underpinning of Israeli independence – Livni left the issue on the table rather than insisting that it be a pre-condition for further negotiations.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinian’s recognize Israel as the Jewish national home is the necessary foundation for peace, and it is the most Zionist position he could take. It is the position that Barak has now chosen, and it is not a “dirty act”. It is a return to our Zionist roots, and it is something Livni would do well to emulate.