I was a huge supporter of Benny Gantz. I had seen him in times of critical decision, I had seen him stand up to the world media, and I had seen him stand in front of the graves of the fallen IDF brothers in arms.
I was aware of his calm demeanor, sometimes attributed to an aloof attitude, but I believed in him. I voted for him three times, and I convinced my friends that this is the guy we can count on for a change in attitude, change in the Israeli public discourse and a better, more sane state of national and international affairs.
I was wrong. When my former commander joined Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, I was deeply disappointed, despite understanding the rationale behind it. I felt cheated. For me it was another example of the populist “prophet politicians” that talk the talk, but blunder and fall clumsily on the walk. It was Gantz’s actions that sent me on a personal soul searching process to find my ideology, one that mutes the populists, and finds an ideology and vision for a better Israel, a more just Israel. My search led me to Avoda. The ideology of Avoda finally brought me in November 2020 to join and become a member of the party.
Avoda, Israel’s Labor Party, is the Party that established the State of Israel. Labor Zionism embodies a distinct vision of Jewish destiny as a free nation, building a just society and safeguarding it.
Throughout my adult life, as an officer in the IDF, I have been prevented from political activism. My personal political views were expected – by military order – to be exactly that, personal. During my 25 years of service, I cast my ballot every few years, celebrated Israel’s democracy, and then went back to my operational routine.
As a spokesperson of the IDF, it was even more important for me to be apolitical. I had to represent the military activities, sometimes in the hardest of circumstances, and put my politics in the back drawer. Throughout my career, I didn’t find myself in a state of internal conflict. Israel has the right and obligation to protect itself. The IDF is a responsible, professional, and decent tool of the government to fulfill this mission. The mission to safeguard the State of Israel, our Jewish homeland.
When I joined Labor in November, people thought I was mad. The polls at that time pointed to the extinction of the party that had built the country and led it for almost half of its existence. People kept telling me that Avoda had completed it’s historic mission. But I felt different.
IF THE last year and COVID-19 has taught us anything, its that the social safety net established by Avoda, was the safety net that helped Israel overcome much of the challenges of the last year. The kuppot cholim community health providers, the medical establishment, the social services, and the National Insurance Institute are all fruits of Labor Zionism.
To come out of the crisis, and to be prepared for future challenges we need to ensure our citizens have the infrastructure they can count on. These are exactly the times when it’s all right to ask, what the country can do for us. This is specifically the agenda of Avoda.
As elections were announced, Labor began its internal process of leadership primaries. It was a battle of the old guard versus new powers, and Merav Michaeli won the leadership. She gathered the support and legitimacy of the party members, because of her outspoken positions on feminism, social affairs and public services, security, and also because she refused to join the Netanyahu-Gantz government on principle.
Since Michaeli’s victory and the internal processes of bringing in new blood, the party is vibrant and kicking and once more a relevant political player. The list is a reflection of Israeli society, with a common denominator of putting social issues at the heart of the decision making process.
To help heal Israeli society from the sickness of neo-liberalism that threatens to deepen inequalities and exasperate the omnipresent tensions of our society. People serve the economy instead of the economy serving the people. It is time for a new social contract, a contract that puts people at the heart of decision-making. This is the essence of Labor Zionism.
Avoda has risen from the dead and is placing equality, education, social services, and much more on the table. The party believes that, like when we established the state, the Jewish State of Israel requires territorial compromises. Without those compromises, Jews in the Jewish homeland will ultimately become a minority.
To fulfill Labor Zionism, we must harmonize our international and social contracts. The rights of our own, and the rights of others. We must end permanent control over Palestinians that are alien to our pursuit of Jewish destiny and our loyalties to ensure the future Jewish homeland.
The roles of defense, national security, and civic security are a triarchy that needs to be recalibrated and better balanced to make Israeli society fairer, stronger, and sustainable. This is Labor Zionism.
So, while I know that Avoda isn’t going to form the next government, I am optimistic that more people see the need for a change – a change in priorities, agenda, and attitude to our fellow countrymen and women. When I joined Labor, the polls projected it wouldn’t cross the threshold. Now it is predicted to win six or seven seats. For me, this would be a great beginning of the renewed Israeli Labor Party.
The letters EMET – which appear on the ballot paper for Labor – mean truth in Hebrew. Truth is both the letters and the essence of my next vote for Israel’s democracy.
The writer, a lieutenant-colonel (res.), is the director-general of international relations of the Histadrut, the General Federation of Labour in Israel, and a former IDF spokesperson.