Post-election plan for the Center-Left

Think About It: There is no reason to believe that as long as Netanyahu has a Right-religious majority, he will voluntarily opt for a softer, more liberal course, which is apparently contrary to his DNA.

Yacimovich 521 (photo credit: GIDEON MARKOWICZ / FLASH 90)
Yacimovich 521
(photo credit: GIDEON MARKOWICZ / FLASH 90)
During the 1959 Knesset election campaign, a friend, who supported Herut, said to me: “There is no chance of deposing Mapai, so I am not sure it is worth bothering to go out and vote.” Indeed, it took another 18 years before the conditions ripened for a political upheaval. Today it is the liberals and social democrats who look at the statistics and conclude that there is no chance of deposing the right wing-religious coalition.
Some of them take the conclusion a step further, as my friend did 54 years ago, and are planning to stay home on election day, or to insert a blank ballot paper into the ballot box, as suggested by former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin.
I strongly disagree with this attitude. The main reason for my objection is that my study of history has convinced me that “what goes up must come down” and vice versa, and that while a linear approach to events such as is reflected in such books as H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1932), which takes certain current phenomena to their absurd extreme, might be interesting, it does not reflect the true course of development.
Returning to the current reality in Israel, most analyses of developments in the foreseeable future deduce that all sections of the religious sector in Israel will continue to grow numerically; that a growing number of Israelis will reach the conclusion that due to developments in the Arab world a settlement with the Palestinians, no matter how desirable, is currently an illusory utopia; and that the realities of the modern economy mean that it is totally unrealistic to expect the state to be able to afford all the goods and services which those who believe in the welfare state expect it to provide.
All this suggests that Israel turning into a Jewish theocracy, annexing the West Bank while pooh-poohing the world, and becoming an even less egalitarian state than it is today is more likely than Israel strengthening its liberal and pluralistic characteristics, remaining a state that is both democratic and Jewish in terms of its essence, and offering all its citizens an equal chance to succeed in life.
But is this really what will happen? Not necessarily.
IF ISRAEL continues to gallop in its current direction, sooner or later it will hit the brick wall of reality. This means not only the world (including the United States) turning its back on Israel as it did in the past to South Africa, but Israelis themselves starting to realize something is very wrong, and that in order to avoid the destruction of the metaphorical Third Temple, some serious changes of heart are required.
With this in mind, the Labor, Hatnuah and Yesh Atid parties must carefully consider what they should do after the elections on January 22. Should they strive to join Netanyahu’s next coalition with the intention of avoiding the creation of a government both more right-wing and more religious than the outgoing one? Or should they all refuse resolutely to join the coalition and let Netanyahu stew in his own juices for the next four years.
I must admit I am not of one mind on this issue.
On the one hand I am truly concerned about what is happening in Israel, which is the only country I am willing to consider living in (I am not one of the 40 percent of Israelis reported to be considering leaving the country), and despite my reservations regarding Ehud Barak and his conduct in the course of the 18th Knesset, I frequently felt relieved by his presence as a “responsible adult” in the outgoing government.
Furthermore, I would much rather have someone from the Center-Left camp in the Interior Ministry than an individual who would fit in very nicely in the Middle Ages, where he believes the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip belong (at least that is what Eli Yishai said in the course of Operation Pillar of Defense). The same applies to several other ministries.
On the other hand, if the Center-Left parties join the government, the chance for a real change of heart within the Israeli electorate will be missed, for such a change of heart will only occur once the citizens of Israel experience the true impact of a pure right wing-religious government, without any internal checks and balances or airbags to absorb the impact.
A second reason for advocating that the Center-Left parties remain in opposition is the pathetic experience of Shaul Mofaz’s joining the Netanyahu government last May, when Netanyahu could have performed a real revolution in many spheres, including integration of the haredim, and chose to miss the opportunity.
There is no reason to believe that as long as Netanyahu has a Right-religious majority, he will voluntarily opt for a softer, more liberal course, which is apparently contrary to his DNA.
Thirdly, it is important for the Israeli democratic system that the concept of “Opposition” be taken more seriously. One of the reasons I am not going to vote for Tzipi Livni, despite her brave confrontation of the issue of our relations with the Palestinians, her honesty and integrity, is that she was a totally ineffective opposition leader.
It is a great shame that Shelly Yacimovich’s announcement last week that she would not join Netanyahu’s next government under any circumstances came against the background of Labor’s failure to pick up in the polls, rather than a solid weltanschauung. But it remains to be seen whether we shall see another back-flip by Yacimovich, or what Lapid and Livni will decide after the elections.
It isn’t over until it is over.
The writer is a former Knesset employee.