When did a left-wing government become a danger? - opinion

Today, the demonization and bad-mouthing of the leftists/liberals/socialists is undoubtedly much more widespread than several decades ago.

Would a government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid really be a potential leftist disaster? (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER)
Would a government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid really be a potential leftist disaster?
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER)
When exactly did being “left wing” – i.e. of the “liberal” or, (Heaven forbid) “socialist” varieties – start being considered tantamount to treachery against the State of Israel and/or the Jewish people? 
I guess that in crypto-fascist right-wing circles this was always the case, but much less so in conservative right-wing circles, many of whom were proud to include liberal elements. Let us remember that the Likud was created through a merger between the nationalist Herut Movement and the liberal Israel Liberal Party, and that in socioeconomic and basic human rights terms, Menachem Begin – the founder of the Herut Movement – was a liberal. Until 1977, the National-Religious camp was certainly not antagonistic toward the workers’/labor parties, with whom it was closely aligned through the “historic alliance,” while the famous “religious status quo” was signed in 1947 between part of the ultra-Orthodox community, and the socialist, agnostic David Ben-Gurion
Today, the demonization and bad-mouthing of the leftists/liberals/socialists is undoubtedly much more widespread than several decades ago, especially since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s paranoia grew to such monstrous dimensions that in his eyes anyone who objects to or is critical of him, his conduct, his wife and eldest son and his policies is automatically labeled as an “extreme-left” enemy, irrespective of his ideology, including MKs Yair Lapid, Avigdor Liberman, Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett, who are all centrists and right-wingers, with various combinations of liberal and conservative positions on different issues, while their attitudes to religion, and especially religion and state, vary greatly. There isn’t a single socialist or leftist among them.
The truth is that the definition of the terms “left-wing,” “liberal” and “socialist” are all rather confusing. The term “left-wing” has its origins in the French Revolution, when the political groups opposed to the royal veto privilege usually sat to the left of the chairman of the parliament, while those in favor of the royal veto privilege sat to his right. In other words, “left” was associated with being in the opposition. Today, the Left is generally associated with social equality and human rights, and against extreme nationalism, jingoism and xenophobia.
Liberalism is divided into economic liberalism, which is associated with the free economy and free competition, and political liberalism, which is associated with the values of majoritarianism and human and civil rights. The democratic, conservative Right is more concerned with majoritarianism than with human and civil rights.
Socialism is divided between social-democracy, which is rooted in the democratic system, and communism, which is inclined to be a dictatorial system. While socialism in general is identified with trying to do away with class inequality and believes in state involvement in (though not necessarily control of) the economy, the social democrats are inclined to seek a golden path between socialist and capitalist principles and solutions. Thus, a social-democrat is a strong supporter of the welfare state, of minimal dependence on NGOs to step in when the welfare state fails and of state involvement when the free market creates injustices and civil wrongs. The social democrat, like the political liberal, is also usually more wary than his right-wing counterpart to get involved in foreign wars for nationalist reasons, more inclined to find compromises to national conflicts and to get involved in activities to deal with human and social injustices around the world.
In his desperate attempt to prevent the establishment of an “alternative,” “just not Bibi,” “healing” government – after he himself failed for the fourth time running to form a “fully right-religious” government – Netanyahu has attacked the mere idea of forming such a government on grounds of its alleged left-wing/liberal/socialist components as an abomination. Thus, even when he is willing to admit that Bennett and Sa’ar are part of the right-wing camp, and calls on them to “come home” (as far as he is concerned Liberman is “beyond the pale”), he keeps arguing that if they will keep insisting on forming a government with the center-left parties, they will be serving a left-wing government, in which they will have no influence.
In fact, what the negotiations for the establishment of the alternative government are trying to achieve (and within the next week we shall probably know whether they have succeeded) is to apply the principle of parity as between its two main components, even though the Center-Left has a large majority in the bloc. This means that neither the Right nor the Center-Left can introduce policies that the other side objects to. In the case of Netanyahu’s outgoing government with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, such an arrangement led to deadlock: not because it is unworkable, but because Netanyahu refused to make it work. With enough good will, the alternative government could make it work.
NETANYAHU KEEPS saying that the alternative government will reintroduce the predominantly socialist economy of the first two and a half decades of the state’s existence. He also keeps insinuating that before he first came to power in 1996 the Israeli economy was a backward third-world economy, in which there was a single 19th century railway line to Jerusalem, and in which, apparently, the parking lot in the Prime Minister’s Office was designed for camels. His son, Yair, added insult to injury when, in an interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in November 2019, he claimed that when his father came to power there were “no exports, for example, besides oranges or something like this.” No, the Israeli economy in 1996 was not backward, and neither the Labor Party nor Meretz today advocate going back to a state-run economy, though they will certainly push for more government initiated social housing, state responsibility for Israel’s battle shock victims and other issues that cannot be left to private initiative. In 
addition, it should be noted that Yesh Atid leader Lapid is a free marketeer – just like Bennett.
However, what I find most aggravating and even insulting is Netanyahu’s constant allusion to a Bennett-Lapid led government as a potential leftist disaster, that will lead Israel down the drain and his total abhorrence of the thought that Labor leader Merav Michael and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz will serve as ministers in it, even though both have served as responsible members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (he apparently prefers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir). Netanyahu also seems to doubt whether two former defense ministers (Liberman and Bennett) and the current one, who served as IDF chief of staff (Gantz), together with another four retired generals (one of them a former deputy chief of staff – Yair Golan from Meretz) will have the competence and wisdom to deal with the Iranian threat at least as effectively as he has done, though most likely with much more tact and discretion. 
Though Netanyahu himself has certainly had some great moments as a leader, his choice of ministers from within the Likud (leaving the most talented Likud MKs on the Knesset back benches or getting them to leave the Knesset altogether), the frequently scandalous performance of his ultra-Orthodox ministers (for example, that of Arye Deri as interior minister and his recent encouragement of unlimited numbers of ultra-Orthodox worshipers to attend the celebration on Mount Meron), and his shameful treatment of his Blue and White partners in his most recent government, all make him the last person entitled to speak of a “disastrous government.”

The writer was a researcher in the Knesset Research and Information Center until her retirement and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Job of the Knesset Member – An Undefined Job, which will soon be published in English.