Veteran social rights MKs out of Knesset

University expert: There will always be others to take up social battles.

melchior 224.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
melchior 224.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Internal security is just as important to Israel as external security, a deflated Green Movement-Meimad Chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior said on Wednesday, hours after learning that his socially motivated platform had not succeeded in gaining his party entry to the next Knesset. A tireless legislator for the past 10 years, Melchior told The Jerusalem Post that the election had been fought against the backdrop of external security threats, but that unless more attention were paid to social issues within the country, such as education, the environment and immigrant absorption, there would be no state left to protect. "We need to build up the Jewish state from within and make it the kind of place where new immigrants want to come," said Melchior, a former chief rabbi of Norway who made aliya from Denmark in 1986. "That means fighting battles for children's rights and protecting the environment, among other things." However, with MKs such as Melchior and Meretz veteran Zehava Gal-On, a champion of women's rights, as well other socially concerned parties locked out of the incoming Knesset there seem to be few MKs ready to take their place. "There will be a big hole in my life now, but I'm sure there will be other MKs willing to take care of the social issues," Melchior said. "Jews are believers, we believe in life in the next world, and I believe there is life [for me] after the Knesset." Melchior blamed a "corrupt political system," backed by a media ready to buy into the "political spin" for the failure of the smaller parties such as the Green Movement-Meimad and the Gil Pensioner's Party to garner enough support to enter the Knesset this time. "Don't worry, you will still hear my voice, it will just be from another, not-quite-as-strong place," said Melchior, who chairs the Education, Culture and Sports Committee in the outgoing Knesset. University of Haifa Prof. Danny Gutwine, an expert in socioeconomic history, said that the shutting out of socially concerned politicians and political parties should not be of huge concern because "there will always be other MKs willing to take up such social battles." He mentioned Labor MKs Amir Peretz and Shelly Yacimovitch, as well as several politicians from the Right who had also excelled in fighting for people's rights and additional benefits for the weaker populations in society. While Gutwine said it was "a shame" Gal-On and Melchior would not continue to be MKs, he cited the lack of a "real socialist agenda" on the part of the left-wing parties as the reason for their election failure. "They give little attention to alternative solutions to the capitalist Right," he said. "Most of the social issues are taken up because of neo-liberal compassion and not because of real socialist concerns." Gutwine also said that the splintered parties on the Left contributed to their downfall. "The green parties were a mistake, they should have joined with either Meretz or Labor and not have created these boutique parties that split the voters," Gutwine said.