Many people define the current controversy over judicial reforms that is roiling Israeli society as a clash between an oppressed majority and a ruling minority. That is, as a clash between a left-wing elite and the right-wing masses.
This is an unfortunate myth, as it allows the Israeli right to renounce its role as a consensus bloc of enlightened conservatives that stands at the center of Israeli politics. It would be a grave mistake for the right to isolate itself in the role of social underdog, because it is not. It is a democratically elected elite that guards the idea of Israel as a Jewish state—not only a “state of the Jews”—that is open to a new era in which Israel is an innovative, modern, and just nation with a strong Jewish identity. Thus, most Israelis support it, whatever their misgivings.
Rather than a struggle against a dominating left-wing “deep state,” we are simply seeing the usual arm-wrestling between right and left for cultural and political hegemony. But this is a struggle in which the right has long had the upper hand. It is the consensus faction in most areas of Israeli life, which explains its ongoing ability to win elections. This is not only true of the right in Israel, but in large parts of the Western world.
Thus, by portraying the protests against judicial reform as a revolt that is fomented and financed by an overbearing leftist elite backed by forces in the U.S. and elsewhere, the right does itself a disservice.
Israel’s leftist minority does, of course, have an elite; and it was once the dominating force in Israeli society. Indeed, the Israeli left has its own heroic history. It established the Jewish state, fought off the enemies of the reborn Israel and helped set Israel on the path to becoming a regional superpower.
Yes, this leftist elite still wields some power. It has its families of noble descent, with ancestors who were major figures in the old Ashkenazi socialist establishment. Nonetheless, this elite’s role in the recent protests has shown not vitality but decline. It is a minority within a minority, as the protests also include young people from the high-tech world, reservists, kibbutznikim, YouTubers, schoolteachers, singers, poets and the nouveau riche. Moreover, the virulent rhetoric employed by the protesters is a sign not of a thriving and powerful elite, but an elite that is going kicking and screaming into history.
The right should not react to this through embracing self-victimization or adopting the same debased rhetoric as its opponents. There is no need to fall into populist bromides or demonize the opposition simply because one perceives that the other side is the “elite.” This only confirms the left’s claims of cultural dominance.
After all, there is nothing inherently bad about being an elite. Sometimes an elite is built and maintained through various forms of abuse. But in such cases, it is the abuse that must be denounced. There is more than enough material: For months, the opposition has engaged in bullying nonsense, excused by a specious “struggle for democracy.” They have shown themselves ignorant of the laws they oppose and unwilling to engage in civilized dissent. They have displayed a general disrespect for everyone in Israeli society who disagrees with them. Is this not a sign of the end?
Indeed, the opposition is clearly a force that is in decline: Their protestations have become repetitive and cliched, retreading the old and failed policies of the left that have long been rejected by the Israeli electorate.
The truth is that the Israeli left has none of the characteristics of an elite. It is simply Israel’s iteration of an ongoing trend across the Western world: The protestations of a minority that has long since collapsed into absurdity. In the U.S. and elsewhere, Black Lives Matter descends into antisemitism, the just defense of gay rights collapses into deranged “gender” theories, cultural figures like Kanye West exalt Hitler and antisemitism is nourished by ostensible defenders of human rights.
In Israel, this has taken the form of unreasoning hatred of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the fervent belief that Israel is but a step away from fascism via a legislative “coup d’etat” against the judiciary. Nor can the opposition’s violent distaste for religious Israelis be overlooked. None of this is the behavior of an elite. It is the ranting of decadents who are destroying themselves by pure hubris.
The truth is that Israel’s opposition is, in many ways, composed of an elite that has already collapsed, in particular because of its inability to adapt to modern conditions. For example, it still clings still to fantasies of “land for peace” with the Palestinians, despite the fact that every such offer has been refused and met with terrorism. It does not acknowledge that Israel’s struggle is still a struggle for survival. Against this reality, the Israeli left has failed to come up with any new ideas. It lives in the past. If it wishes to rise to power again, it must acknowledge reality and change. Despite its recent success in the streets, it shows no sign that it is capable of this.