Reality Check: What about Dov Henin?

Yacimovich’s decision to challenge Netanyahu solely over economic policy is nothing more than rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titantic.

Dov Henin 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Twitter)
Dov Henin 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Twitter)
Left-of-center voters looking for a party to vote for next month should seriously consider following Shelly Yacimovich’s example – and vote Hadash. The Labor Party leader famously voted for this non- Zionist, Jewish-Arab party in 1996 because of her admiration for Tamar Gozansky, a Hadash legislator prominent in championing workers’ rights, rights of the individual and women’s rights during her 13 years as a Knesset member.
Gozansky’s role in Hadash has since been filled by Dov Henin, another hardworking MK who this year won the Israel Democracy Institute’s Outstanding Parliamentarian Award 2012, which is presented to parliamentarians with outstanding records in promoting legislation.
(For those readers who might consider Israel Democracy Institute awards a closed left-wing shop, it should be noted that Henin shared his award with United Torah Judaism’s Uri Maklev, while Zevulun Orlev of Bayit Yehudi was cited as the most distinguished committee chairman for his leadership of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child.) Like Gozansky, Henin has campaigned vigorously for workers’ and women’s rights, and on top of this he has also spearheaded the environmental cause in the outgoing Knesset, working with MKs from across the political spectrum to enact an impressive number of new laws. In the 2008 Tel Aviv municipal elections, backed by the Green movement, he fought an impressive campaign against the shoe-in establishment candidate, Ron Hulda’i, winning almost 35 percent of the vote as the head of the Ir Lekhulanu (“City for All”) party, significantly reducing the size of Hulda’i’s majority.
In other words, Henin is exactly the type of hard-working, principled politician with a broad worldview that one wants to see in the Knesset. Unfortunately, under Israel’s proportional representation system, a voter can only vote for a party, not an individual, and there are serious concerns as to Hadash’s commitment to an inclusive Israeli civil-rights agenda, encompassing both the country’s Jewish and Arab populations.
Given the party’s history of joining up with Arab separatist parties such as Balad in 1996 and Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al in 2003, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Hadash’s predominantly Arab leadership have fewer problems supporting the Palestinian nationalist cause than they do accepting the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination.
BUT STILL, as a protest vote, a vote for Hadash has much to recommend it for traditional Labor supporters dismayed by Yacimovich’s attempt to turn Labor into a centrist party, indistinguishable from the non-ideological and highly opportunistic lists headed by Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid. A sharp increase in Hadash’s electoral strength from regions where it traditionally has failed to poll would send a very clear message of dissatisfaction with Yacimovich’s blunting of Labor’s diplomatic principles.
As the incumbent, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has every incentive to ensure that this election campaign be as somnolent as possible, and so far he is doing an excellent job, helped by Yacimovich’s unexplainable passivity. Reworking his 1996 campaign, which first brought him to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu is once again making Jerusalem the focus.
Back then, while running as the underdog, Netanyahu unleashed the slogan “Peres will divide Jerusalem” to frighten the undecided voter against voting for the then-Labor leader. Today, thanks to the supine opposition he’s facing, Netanyahu’s main concern is a loss of support among right-wing voters, and so he’s looking to prevent Likud voters defecting to the increasingly extremist Bayit Yehudi by announcing plans to increase settlement building, particularly in Jerusalem and the E-1 area near Ma’aleh Adumim.
The cost of these statements to Israel’s international standing is worrisome.
The US State Department last week accused Israel of engaging in a continuous “pattern of provocative action,” noting in a statement that “these repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.”
In fact, just a couple more terms of Netanyahu and his ilk in power will ensure there will be no possibility of ever reaching a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, creating an immoral apartheid state in which a Jewish Israeli minority will rule over a non-Jewish Palestinian majority.
Such a state will not last for long and the Zionist dream will be over.
These elections should be a wake-up call for all those Israelis seeking a modern, secular, non-messianic country that wants to live in peace with its neighbors behind internationally recognized borders and in which all its citizens, Jew and non-Jew alike, are treated equally by the state. Yacimovich’s decision to challenge Netanyahu solely over economic policy is nothing more than rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titantic. Netanyahu and his policies are leading Israel to disaster; a vote for Yacimovich’s Labor will do nothing to prevent this.
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.