Think About It: The primaries that were

Though the current Labor list is certainly less security minded than any of its predecessors, it is no more “extreme Left” than it is “Center.”

Shelly Yacimovich at Labor Central Committee 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Shelly Yacimovich at Labor Central Committee 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Following the primaries in their respective parties, neither Binyamin Netanyahu nor Shelly Yacimovich are completely pleased with the results.
What is bothering them? Though Netanyahu is no bleeding-heart liberal, he is clearly perturbed by the weakening of the more moderate section of his party, and the strengthening of the extreme Right. When he realized that Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan had been excluded from the Likud list, he looked like someone who had swallowed a lemon, and immediately assured the former two that he was planning on keeping them at his side.
This was adding insult to injury. The members of the Likud had just stated that they did not want the three in their list, after Netanyahu hadn’t done enough to change their minds, and as men of honor they have accepted the verdict with resignation.
If Netanyahu feels that the Likud has moved too far to the Right, and that this will destroy what remains of Israel’s international standing, the way to mend the situation is not by disobeying the verdict, but by trying to build a solid coalition with the Center and Left of Center parties, which together are expected to get at least 40 seats. That this will not be to the liking of the majority in his own party is clear, but this is Netanyahu’s opportunity to demonstrate some real leadership, for a change. Blessed are the believers.
The movement of the Likud to the Right was a foregone conclusion since the establishment of Kadima in November 2005, when most of the more moderate wing of the Likud defected together with Ariel Sharon. Only one former member of Kadima – Tzachi Hanegbi – has returned home.
And what is bugging Yacimovich? First of all, even though she managed to get most of the candidates she favored into the Labor list, so did her main rival in the party, Amir Peretz. This means that she is not going to have an easy time with her parliamentary group, whether she decides to join the next coalition or remain in opposition.
The problem for Yacimovich is not just that Peretz, in the “best” self-destructive Labor tradition, is expected to start challenging her leadership the day after the elections, but that Peretz is not ashamed to identify himself as a Leftist.
Furthermore, most of the candidates on Labor’s new list who speak out openly in favor of Israel making every effort to reach a settlement with the Palestinians, and against the provocative expansion of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria in order to kill any chance of such a settlement, had Peretz’s support, and were cold-shouldered by Yacimovich.
Incidentally, it is not that if a serious opportunity arises to reach a settlement with the Palestinians, based on a painful territorial compromise, Yacimovich will reject it. It is that she feels that since “Left” has turned into a dirty word in large sections of Israeli society, for tactical reasons it is desirable to try to market the Labor Party as Centrist.
I think this is a cowardly approach. Yacimovich is a Social Democrat, and social democracy is left wing – moderate left wing, but nevertheless left wing. You cannot fight against people’s prejudices and/or ignorance by denying being what you are. During the many years that prime minister David Ben-Gurion repeated the slogan (in connection with the coalitions he was willing to establish) “Without Herut and Maki,” Menachem Begin never claimed that he was not a Herutnik – not even after he created an alignment with the Liberal Party.
Recently a right-wing acquaintance asked me whether Labor would be joining Netanyahu's next coalition. I answered that I do not know, but in the unlikely situation it decides to do so, I hope it will insist on getting the Interior Ministry.
My interlocutor answered: “Oh no, the Left in the Interior Ministry will freely hand out citizenship to the Palestinians.” Certainly the answer to this spurt of prejudice and ignorance is not to say: “Don’t worry, Labor is Center,” but to explain that the Zionist Left wants more than anything else that Israel should maintain its Jewish majority, and that it is the extreme Right, which refuses to accept any territorial compromise, as a result of which Israel will turn into a bi-national or apartheid state, which will cause the Jews will lose their majority.
Incidentally, Yacimovich’s declaration that Labor is not Left is going to benefit Meretz, which has started to stick posters all over the country saying “Left-wingers – Come Home.”
Many left-wingers who had considered voting Labor have now changed their minds. For the very same reason Amram Mitzna, who until several weeks ago was still considering running in the Labor primaries, has decided to run in Tzipi Livni’s list, because she, at least, has placed the peace process at the top of her list of priorities.
None of this benefits Labor.
Finally, the folly of Yacimovich’s position on this issue came to light on Friday morning, when the official Likud reaction to the results of Labor’s primaries was that Labor had selected an extreme Left list, which is led by someone who had voted for Hadash (an allusion to the fact that Yacimovich admitted having once in the past voted for Tamar Gozhansky).
Though the current Labor list is certainly less security minded than any of its predecessors, following the defection of Ehud Barak, together with another four “bitchonistim,” from the Labor Party in January 2011, it is no more “extreme Left” than it is “Center.”
The writer is a former Knesset employee.