Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, the head of Israel’s falsely dubbed “center left” Labor Party, doesn’t even bother these days to temper the radicalism that makes her indistinguishable from Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On.
This isn’t the sole reason that the outspoken feminist—who has boasted of carrying on the legacy of the late (assassinated) prime minister Yitzhak Rabin—is polling so poorly in the run-up to the Nov. 1 Knesset elections.
Her drawing of such a comparison would be merely comical if it didn’t serve a purpose beyond that of self-aggrandizement: making herself appear more mainstream than she actually is. It’s been a tall order, since the extent of her extremism was well known even before she joined the current coalition, that collapsed under the weight of its untenable mixture of contradictory ideologies.
But she has spent the past year and a half glossing over the controversial social issues that long ago became her trademark. Rejecting matrimony is a key one.
“I want all secular states to totally eliminate all registration and regulation of marriage,” she announced in a 2012 TED talk. “I want to cancel the very concept of marriage.”
Stating that “marriage is not about love,” she explained that “it started ages ago, back when man started wanting his name and property to remain after him. … [T]he thing is that this can only work if the property remains in the hands of its owner, someone he sees as his own reflection: his biological heir. There’s the rub. The woman is the one giving birth to the biological heir, the child.”
She continued: “In order to get possession of his children … the man needed possession over a woman, or, to be precise, a womb. So, he gets one. And this is called marriage.”
The rest of the lecture was equally absurd, though its gist would have made Karl Marx proud. Ditto for her comments in 2017 about the traditional family structure, which she said is “harmful” to children. The solution she offered, in an interview with Australian TV, was to have the state decide on the custody and raising of kids, without giving special preference to their biological parents.
Since then, she hasn’t entirely been practicing what she preaches, but she comes pretty close. She and her longtime male partner, TV producer and political satirist Lior Schleien, live in different apartments in the same building.
Thanks to pressure from non-husband Schleien, the power couple now has a baby boy, who was born via a surrogate in the United States.
Michaeli wound up revealing news of the birth after receiving criticism for flying abroad when the government of which she was (and still is) a member practically forced the public to avoid travel during the pandemic. As it would subsequently turn out, she had gone to the United States to meet her new infant.
She and Schleien didn’t hand him over to the state, of course. In any case, it’s Daddy who’s been doing the lion’s share of the diaper-changing, while Mommy’s off dealing with ministerial business. Oh, and making a point of feminizing the Hebrew language while she’s at it.
This brings us to another cause for her sad showing in pre-election surveys: job performance. She has been far more intent on reversing the status-quo ban on public transportation during Shabbat than on improving the existing problematic conditions for commuters, particularly those in certain areas.
When asked on Saturday night, during Channel 12’s weekly focus-group segment, why she “froze all the transportation plans” for Judea and Samaria, she replied, “I didn’t stop anything that was already in progress, [but] it’s true that I didn’t unveil any new plans, because I think it’s a shame to invest in a place that, in the end, won’t be part of the sovereign State of Israel.”
Oh, boy. That didn’t go over too well; nor should it have.
Still, it’s good for voters to be reminded that the imminent election, contrary to common obfuscation, is not simply a referendum on Likud Party chairman Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. It is about the direction and future of the country.
If Netanyahu’s camp garners a sufficient number of seats to form a coalition, voices like Michaeli’s will be muffled. If it doesn’t, the election will likely result in a deadlock, since the “anybody but Bibi” bloc isn’t anywhere near achieving a 61-mandate majority.
In such an event, all the incumbent ministers will be able to stay put for the foreseeable future. And Michaeli isn’t even the worst of them.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”