By Uri Anvery
21 March 2015
So Netanyahu is back. That’s the sad outcome of the Israeli elections. Sad, but not the end of the world.
Some people say that the best course now is a so-called national unity government. Looks like a nice idea. Unity always sounds nice.
The advocates of this choice have one good argument: It’s the lesser evil. The only other possibility is an extreme right-wing-religious government, which will not only stop any step toward peace, but also expand settlements, enact more laws to choke democracy and impose reactionary religious laws.
It’s a good argument, but it has to be rejected outright. The unity government would be dominated by the Right. At best it would be a government of total immobility. It would be unable and unwilling to make even the slightest move toward ending the historic conflict, terminating the occupation and recognition of Palestine. Settlements would expand at a frantic pace. The chances of an eventual peace would move even further away.
It would do a lot of harm. The Labour Party would be obliged to justify and beautify this disastrous course, disarm the Obama administration and progressive Jewish forces throughout the world. It would be a huge fig leaf for evil.
It would also leave Israel without an effective opposition. If the government coalition broke up somewhere along the way, the Labour party would be too besmirched to constitute a credible alternative. The initial success of Yitzhak Herzog in rousing the old party from its comatose state cannot be repeated a second time. Labour would become a spent force, a vegetable. Fortunately for the Labour Party, this possibility died almost immediately after the election. Netanyahu killed it with one stroke.
By the way, a curious side effect of a unity government would have been that the leader of the (Arab) Joint List, Ayman Odeh, would have become Leader of the Opposition.
By law, the title is bestowed automatically on the chief of the largest opposition party. It confers on its holders many of the privileges of a Cabinet minister. The premier is obliged to confer with them regularly and share government secrets with them. But even if there is no unity government, and Herzog becomes Leader of the Opposition, one outstanding result of the election is the changed situation of the Arabs in the Knesset.
It is to be hoped that the Joint Arab List will not break up. Odeh represents a new generation of Arab citizens, which is much more willing to integrate in Israeli society. Perhaps next time the old taboos will at long last disappear and the Arab citizens will become a real part of Israel’s political life.
At the beginning of the election campaign I wrote two articles in Haaretz, suggesting that the initial momentum created by the Herzog-Livni union should be continued and intensified by creating a much larger Unity List, including the “Zionist Camp” (Labour), Meretz, Lapid’s Yesh Atid and, if possible, even Moshe Kahlon’s new party. The response? None whatsoever. None of the parties even took official notice.
The idea was that such a united front would create an irresistible momentum and attract voters who would not vote for any of these parties individually (or not vote at all). Together with the joint Arab list they would have created a blocking force that would have made a Likud comeback impossible. I added that if the proposal was not accepted, all the parties involved might come to
The election results have shown that the dark prophecies about a decisive, irreversible shift of Israel to the right are unfounded. The dividing line runs through the middle, and can be shifted. But in order to effect this, there must be a readiness to start from the beginning.
The present setup of the Israeli left will not do. That is the simple truth. The most outstanding fact of this election is that the outcome reflects exactly the demographic composition of Israeli society. Likud won decisively within the Oriental Jewish community, which includes the lower socioeconomic strata. Likud also retained its partial foothold in the Ashkenazi community.
The Zionist Camp and Meretz won decisively within the well-situated Ashkenazi public — there, and nowhere else.
The left must invent itself anew according to this reality. Otherwise it has no future. If one of the existing parties can do it, fine. If not, a new political force must be formed. Now. First of all, our failures must be clearly analyzed and admitted. The fateful failure to win over a large part of the Oriental Jewish community must be recognized, analyzed and studied. This can be done.
The same, and even more so, goes for the immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They are totally estranged from the Left. There is no reason for that in Israel today. The taboo that prevents the Jewish left from uniting with the Arab political forces must be broken.
There is no reason for the complete break between the secular left and even moderate religious forces. The provocative anti-religious stand that is typical for some parts of the centre and left is plain stupid. So what to do?
First of all, a new leadership must be encouraged to emerge. Really new leaders must come forward, who are not a replica of the old.
Overbearing attitudes must be shed. No one sector has an exclusive right to the state. Exclusiveness, often unconscious, must be replaced with inclusiveness.