Electionscape: The Right must stop denying reality

The right-wing has yet to draw the correct conclusions from its election debacle and is still fighting yesterday's battles.

anshel pfeffer 298.88 (photo credit: )
anshel pfeffer 298.88
(photo credit: )
A group of mainly secular, right-wing intellectuals published a quarter-page ad on the cover of one of the weekend papers Friday thanking "the best finance minister Israel ever had" and blaming both the politicians in service of the big business monopolies and the politicians with fake social agendas crippling Israel's economy - and of course their lackeys in the press - for "taking a contract" out on Binyamin Netanyahu. They promise us that "everyone will beg you to return and save us" and beseech Netanyahu to "keep yourself and your strengths safe, Am Yisrael still needs you." Another wing of the Right, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza published an even larger ad in a different paper claiming that "Olmert has no mandate for retreating in Judea and Samaria" with graphs showing a virtual tie between the parties supporting and opposing Ehud Olmert's "convergence" plan. Both ads prove that the right-wing has yet to draw the correct conclusions from its debacle last week and is still fighting yesterday's battles. One of the clearest messages in the election results are the 40 Knesset seats gained by Labor, Shas and the Gil Pensioners Party that all ran on a campaign blaming Netanyahu for enlarging the ranks of the poor with his financial plan. The voters drew their conclusions without the help of the anti-Bibi press, which mainly attacked Netanyahu on personal and political grounds but was generally receptive to his fiscal policies, as was the victorious Kadima Party which begrudgingly acknowledged his achievements. In his victory speech, even Olmert had some good words for his rival's record as finance minister. Netanyahu's problem was that a significant part of the electorate, including many former Likud voters, couldn't see beyond their own wage-packet. And who can blame them? What Netanyahu's remaining supporters have still failed to grasp is that economic success is just as much a matter of perception as of statistics. The voters turned their backs on Netanyahu, not because of what they saw in the media, but because of what they felt in their pockets. The Yesha Council ad stresses that Olmert "has no Jewish majority for a unilateral pullback and further uprooting," but even if we ignore for a moment the undemocratic and racist base of the argument that disqualifies Israeli Arab citizens, the claim is still ridiculous. The ad includes five parties in the "against" column, but out of those, only National Union-NRP campaigned resolutely against any pullbacks or dismantling of settlements. The Likud, despite roundly attacking Olmert's plan, published two days before the election their manifesto that didn't rule out a Palestinian state and accepted the fact that there would be more pullbacks. Of the other "against" parties, UTJ had nothing to say during the elections on Olmert's plans, Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu have their own plan of territorial exchange and Shas, while voicing objections to placate its right-wing constituency, will make only financial demands before ultimately joining Olmert's coalition. The right-wing still hasn't understood that its main problem, as it was during last the summer's disengagement from Gush Katif, isn't the number of votes for and against pullbacks, it's the general public's apathy towards the settlers' fate. Much less than a quarter of the voters are dead set against more pullbacks. If there were more, Likud and National Union-NRP wouldn't have only 21 seats in the next Knesset. The bottom line is that if Olmert will indeed go ahead with his plans, he has a clear majority within the Knesset and only a small but noisy minority will oppose him in the public. All the rest are in favor or just don't care. So what's left for the Israeli Right? The opposition to more pullbacks will obviously be bitter and perhaps violent, but if something doesn't change the political picture, they are destined to fail and if Labor and Shas indeed become coalition partners, much of Netanyahu's fiscal legacy might be lost. The way forward for the Right must therefore be twofold. The parties on the Right that stay out of the coalition must concentrate on fighting for the Jewish identity of Israel, making sure that despite the trauma of pullbacks and demolition of settlements, the Jewish community in the Holy Land will still have something in common. The Likud in particular, must also be the torchbearers for a responsible unpopulist economy, and spend the next few years waging a long-term campaign to educate the public to see the larger picture. If they just entrench themselves in the fights of elections past, the Right will be even less relevant in the next elections. [email protected]