By the time this column is published, we will have a much clearer picture of which names appear on the lists of people who are running for Knesset in the upcoming election for Israel’s 24th Knesset. It’s likely that Merav Michaeli, who was recently elected the Labor Party’s leader, will be leading the Labor list or a list that includes more candidates.
It’s the norm in Israeli politics that what appears whole is actually smaller than the sum of all its parts. The Israeli political system is not based on two large parties like in the US, or even on three parties, like in the UK and Germany.
Since its founding, Israel has had a divided political system. I’m not sure that the desire to artificially reduce the diversity that exists within Israel’s public is necessarily the most successful model that will lead to greater stability or alter the balance of power in our system of government.
Meretz can run as an independent party, and if Ron Huldai agrees to run, he have a chance of garnering representation in the Knesset. Benny Gantz’s eulogies were a legitimate expression by many who were frustrated from the huge mistake he and Gabi Ashkenazi made by joining forces with Netanyahu. However, Gantz showed great courage where others displayed weakness and laxity when he established Blue and White’s base. Without him, we’d have been tormented by the madness of the royal family that has no boundaries or principles, and fails to commit itself to anything other than themselves, their status, their comforts, their euphoria and ability to take advantage of the country’s resources for their own private needs.
But now Merav Michaeli has arrived on the scene. Herein lies the key to the change that could take place one day and becoming a turning point. Of everyone involved in Israel’s political system, Merav Michaeli is the only woman to head one of Israel’s political parties. Michaeli was not appointed or pushed forward by sponsors. She has made her way to the center stage of Israeli politics with courage, honesty and tireless adherence to principles and values, which she never tried to hide or obscure.
It’s true, Michaeli knows quite well how to push peoples’ buttons, but she stands her ground for the right reasons. Many people find her grating because she takes the time to remind them of things they would rather have forgotten, or at least not have had to think about. She is blunt in order to arouse from their lifelong hibernation people who’ve grown tired of fighting for the ideals they claim to hold dearly. She has resisted the temptation that almost no one else wanted to face. When other members of her party joined the government they had sworn never to join, Michaeli was left alone. No one promised her a thing, and neither did she ask for anything. She remained alone, pushed to the margins of the party.
MICHAELI DIDN’T lose her desire to bring about a revolution that in most peoples’ eyes seems impossible. She is the only woman in the entire Israeli political world who has demonstrated courage, determination, and commitment to her mission. For this she is worthy of great admiration.
It’s possible that the turmoil of the last few days may have led her to the conclusion that it’s worth reducing the risk and connecting with another body or group in order to strengthen her parliamentary representation. It’s also completely possible that she has reached the conclusion, which seems to me logical and correct, that it’d be best for her to continue as the head of a party leading a head-to-head battle that could end on election day in what I believe would be a great surprise.
Of all the bodies running in this election, Merav Michaeli is the only truly significant opponent of the gang that is leading the State of Israel toward a crisis that could threaten our existence.
On the one hand, there’s Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife and son, and alongside them the gang that everyone knows all too well, so there’s no point in repeating their names. They represent the moral decline of the State of Israel, the culture of lies and fake news, the willingness to sell out on the State of Israel’s most essential interests to the highest bidder.
They represent the willingness to engage in trade on what appears to be a worldview that would help them improve their chances, which seems to be dwindling more each day, to secure the support of 61 members of Knesset. Support that was designed to destroy Israel’s law enforcement and legal authorities, while at the same time escaping from the inevitable need to initiate a dramatic political move that could lead to the renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution, i.e., a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.
No politician represents the opposite of all these things – except for Merav Michaeli, that is. Gideon Sa’ar and the members of the New Hope Party made a brave move when they established a new political party. I do not support Sa’ar, even though I hold him in a high regard and respect him on a personal level. Unfortunately, though, Sa’ar – just like Naftali Bennett – is living under the illusion that the State of Israel can remain democratic, egalitarian, fair and tolerated in the international arena, and at the same time remain in control of millions of Palestinians with no end in sight.
Both Sa’ar and Bennett are committed to recognizing Israel’s enforcement and legal authorities. They are not, however, a true alternative to Bibi’s Likud, even though both of them – and especially Sa’ar – are different from Netanyahu. They’re much more decent and genuine than he and his gang are, and they are worthy of respect for having had the determination to escape the swamp they were bogged down in for so many years.
Yesh Atid has lots of great qualities and deserves our admiration. They had the courage not to give in to the temptation as Gantz and Ashkenazi did, and we need to recognize the value of this move. This required tenacity and resilience, which not many politicians have demonstrated in our country’s turbulent history. This is why among all the parties that are running against the Likud gang, Lapid and his fellows appear stronger and more stable.
This achievement should not be downplayed. It didn’t come out of nowhere. It takes a tremendous amount of determination to start from scratch and reach where they have.
ON THE other hand, what does Yesh Atid actually think about recruiting yeshiva students into the IDF? Do they still feel as strongly about this as they did in the past? Are they winking even a little bit at Deri, Litzman and Gafni? If only they had the courage to tell them today: We’ve changed our position, and we’re no longer demanding that haredim (ultra-Orthodox) comply with the compulsory military service. Not because this wouldn’t be politically beneficial, but because it wouldn’t benefit Israel’s security or add stability to the IDF. We don’t need it so we can pretend there’s equality between the haredim and all the others, since in reality a significant percentage of secular Israeli youth also don’t fulfill their compulsory service.
If Yesh Atid would explicitly declare: “We made a mistake and we no longer insist on compulsory military service for haredim but rather support a national civil service in the community”, then it will open an opportunity - in coordination with haredi leaders - for a new dialogue and relieve Yesh Atid from having to pretend it is something that it isn’t. Furthermore, what is Yesh Atid’s stance vis-à-vis the Palestinian question? Is Lapid in favor of a two-state solution? They always end up stuttering unclear responses to this question. Do they consider themselves a left- or right-wing party?
It seems to me that their refusal to be more resolute on these issues is preventing Yesh Atid from becoming the sweeping force they could have been, despite their consistency on other important issues, such as protecting Israel’s law enforcement and legal systems.
In the end, there’s no question: The only candidate who can be considered real opposition and stand up to Netanyahu is a woman who has stood up to all the men who are accustomed to running our political system. Her name is Merav Michaeli.
She doesn’t wink at anyone in an effort to please them. She doesn’t bend over backwards in order to avoid confrontations. She doesn’t blur the lines of her positions to gain a few more votes.
Merav Michaeli is the only candidate that represents all of the values we are sorely missing. She is the complete opposite of all the things Netanyahu represents and that we want to get rid of.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if that tunnel is long.
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.