Resurrecting the dead

Will the blunders of the rightwing government bring the comatose leftwing back to life?

Livni and Netanyahu 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Livni and Netanyahu 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
At long last, it appears the messiah has arrived, and he comes in the form of the Israeli Right. How do we know? Because it is succeeding in resurrecting the dead.
When the Oslo process met its death in 2000, it did not die alone, as the Israeli Left was left for dead at the same time. For a decade, the Left — embodied by Labor and Meretz — was on life support, teetering on the edge of catatonia. Make no mistake: Labor MKs may have warmed their chairs in the cabinet, but their leadership produced no ideas, no vision, no alternative.
Nothing demonstrates how thoroughly politics in Israel have been dominated by the Right than the fact that the real electoral battle for the past two elections has been between Likud and its former members (i.e. Kadima). Indeed, the most important "leftish" policy to win a battle of ideas in the past decade — unilateral withdrawal from Gaza — was championed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon and then cabinet minister Ehud Olmert.
The political lines may now be changing. The massive protests this summer made for fertile ground, but were far from sufficient for the Left to regain a pulse; for however badly the government handled the protests, the Left was even more inept at capitalizing on those mistakes.
What has actually breathed new life into the Left is a sweeping series of proposed legislation that has sought to increase the Knesset's influence over the Supreme Court's composition, hobble leftwing NGOs and, now, to silence the news media. The underlying, unifying theme to this varied legislation is an unabashed attempt at permanently altering the balance of power in this country.
Again, until late, the Right has had little reason to fear a re-emergence of leftwing political parties. If the Right dominates the Knesset, its constituents must ask, what is hamstringing its ability to impose its will on the country? Besides international pressure, the only barriers left are the courts, the media and human rights NGOs — all perceived as left-leaning. By chipping away at the independence of all three, these MKs are attempting to gain unbridled power and cement this power for decades to come.
All of this will inevitably bring about the very outcome rightwing parties sought to avoid: the re-emergence of the political left. If this legislation is not buried in the coming weeks, we will see the otherwise solid polling figures of these parties, especially Likud, start to falter. 
Why? Although some like to paint the left-right debate in Israeli politics as being about what should have precedent — Israel's democratic values or its Jewish values — the actual subtext is far more visceral. The Right's most successful vilification of the Left has been to insinuate, or declare outright, that they were traitors. The Left's most successful counter — one which really stirs the public's deep-seated fears — has been to vilify the Right as fascist. At their heart, these are two extremes are on the same axis regarding what constitutes legitimate self-criticism in our society.
This recent legislative offensive has given the Left precisely the ammunition it has been lacking for so long. Had the proposed legislation been staggered over a longer period of time, had the proposed legislation on increasing 'media accountability' not been so draconian and so clearly aimed at shielding MKs themselves from real investigative reporting, then maybe rightwing parties could have sailed into another electoral victory.
Yet, by taking advantage of their legislative advantage and over-reaching on their true electoral mandate, rightwing parties seem to be hell-bent on bringing the Left back from the grave and ensuring an invigorating election season ahead of us. The only question now is whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will realize the damage this legislative onslaught is costing his party, as well as his coalition partners, before the damage becomes permanent.
The writer is the former deputy director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center (GLORIA) of the IDC in Herzliya.