The fight for Israel

As we used to say to one another in 2012 when we founded Yesh Atid, “They can call themselves whatever they want, in the end they’re all centrists.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Where is the battle over the character of the State of Israel taking place? Contrary to the perceived wisdom, the fight isn’t between Right and Left. In Israel in 2015 there is a strange unity of ideas, occasionally unnatural, between the left- and right-wing blocs on many of the central issues: Everyone is opposed to the deal with Iran, everyone is opposed to the division of Jerusalem, everyone supports one version or another of capitalism with a social conscience.
As we used to say to one another in 2012 when we founded Yesh Atid, “They can call themselves whatever they want, in the end they’re all centrists.”
Despite this surprising homogeneity, Israeli society is riven and fragmented like never before. Out of force of habit each side continues to slander the other, but the fight in Israel is not between socialists and capitalists, or those loyal to Jerusalem and those who wish to divide it. The big fight in Israel, the defining one which changes us from within, is between the center and the fringes.
Between the builders and the destroyers.
In that fight there are groups who find themselves on the same side – “Breaking the Silence” and “Kahane Lives”; the girls who swear at the police in Beit El and the “Anarchists against the Wall” in Bil’in; the Arab MKs who board the flotilla and the government ministers who call the Supreme Court “radical Left” and do everything to undermine its authority; the corrupt, the convicted, the extortionists and those who turn a blind eye to it all out of political interests.
In short, all those who care only for their tribe and think the rest can just go to hell.
Israeli politicians – like their colleagues across the world – speak passionately about the need for unity but fear the cost of that unity, which is the need to define the boundaries of that consensus. The fringes – by their nature – try to expand the boundaries, but a society which values life cannot allow everyone into the tent. There are rules.
He who attacks the Supreme Court and the rule of law can’t then ask to be part of the consensus. There is no ideology which can justify criminality. The terrible utterance of MK Moti Yogev that “we need to bring a D9 bulldozer blade down on to the Supreme Court” excludes him from being a part of the Israeli leadership.
So long as he refuses to apologize, I fail to see how the prime minister and the leader of his party can allow him to continue to sit opposite me in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
He clarified, beyond all doubt, that when faced with the choice between his friends and the rule of law, he chooses his sector. That’s his democratic right, but it is a brazen statement of disloyalty to the country and it must come with a price.
The State of Israel is facing a choice.
Will it fall victim to the division between its different tribes and divisions which the prime minister expertly exploits for political gain, or will it unite and choose to work together? For that to happen, each tribe needs to realize that society is not a zero-sum game, it is a sum of its tensions. For us to live here together, each of us will need to compromise on something important to them.
Yesh Atid was formed to create a political home for Israelis who care and who are concerned, those who are not willing to live in a society in which everyone is equal before the law except for those who don’t want to be. The Center, in our view, is not the middle point between Right and Left, but the place of the government in the lives of Israelis.
Where do we start the long road which will restore strong leadership to Israel? A leadership which isn’t afraid of its citizens and can lead significant diplomatic and social initiatives? With a clear statement that the law is one, is for everyone and no one is above it.
The writer is leader of the Yesh Atid party.