The Israeli left, including those who purport to be centrist in their views, is on the brink of collapse as a result of a crisis that began with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and has grown increasingly worse since Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
For too many years, the spokespeople for the left—and their representatives in the media, as well as the cultural and judicial elite—have tried to convince the public that there was a partner for peace on the other side. This false hope resulted in an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, headed at one point by arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat and now serial Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Abbas.
Any sensible person can see that we are now at the height of a struggle against a pro-terrorism Palestinian Authority and its supporters inside the State of Israel. This is an ongoing struggle not over the 1967 borders, as they have tried to sell it to us, but the 1947 borders. The left has failed because it lacks vision. It is very difficult to find Israelis who are willing to return to the days of “Socialism Now.” No one is nostalgic for the Bolshevik economy that once had a chokehold on private initiatives. The only slogan the left can fall back on is “Anyone but Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu].” There is no ideology, no path, no direction.
It is very difficult for the left to be able to do well in elections in the absence of serious leadership. Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay and Zionist Union head Tzipi Livni, both individually and as a team, are incapable of convincing Israelis of their ability to contend with the challenges Israel now faces. Just look at the polls. The left is in such a bad state that its supporters are willing to vote for a man whose opinions, and whether he leans to the right or the left, are completely unknown.
Against this background, Israel’s shortest-serving prime minister, Ehud Barak, has volunteered to join the effort to lead the leftist camp, in the hope that he will be asked to join its leadership. To the best of my knowledge, never in the history of the state has a former politician garnered as much media attention. Although he is interviewed on an almost daily basis, not once have Barak’s interviewers hit him with difficult questions about such subjects as the price Israel has paid for the decision to beat a hasty retreat from Lebanon or the loans he received from philanthropic organizations in return for anonymous studies.
Under these circumstances, the left and its familiar representatives in the media have chosen to pull out that rusty but familiar weapon. From 7 a.m. to midnight, there are those on the Kan public broadcaster and other TV channels who try to convince us that everything is bad, there is no future, Israeli democracy is at risk, the settlers are eroding the rule of law, the judicial system is under threat, the Supreme Court is at risk of being shut down, Israeli society is polarized and fragmented, and everything is corrupt. Adhering to the Bolshevik spirit of yore, for these people it is always the worse things are, the better.
In fact, the opposite is true. Under Netanyahu’s leadership, the right has led Israel to unprecedented achievements. In a wild, untamed environment, in the midst of chaos and surrounded by an ocean of hate, Israel constitutes a magnificent island of progress, stability and enlightenment. Israel today is much more than a regional power; it is a world power in the fields of diplomacy, security, economy, science, technology, education, medicine and many other fields.
The world, including countries where Israel’s entire population could easily squeeze into one neighborhood, is in awe of the Jewish state’s achievements. Government officials who examined the current mood in the country discovered that Israelis feel pretty good about things; they are satisfied with their lives and have no plans to leave Israel, even as the leftists in their yellow vests tell us that cottage cheese is cheaper in Berlin.
It came out only recently that 41 percent of the poorest 10 percent of Israelis own their own cars. If the numbers of Israelis who passed through Ben-Gurion International Airport last summer is any indication, it is safe to assume that even people from the bottom 10 percent have made trips overseas.
Yes, there are poor people who need help in Israel, and we have a civil and moral obligation to help them. But the attempt to portray Israel as a country of downtrodden, starving people is an ugly and cynical politically motivated attempt to slander the state and, more importantly, a bald lie.
Israeli democracy is thriving. Freedom of speech is unrestricted. Israel is the only country in the world in which the majority requires protection from a minority that tries to force its views on the country through the law-enforcement systems. The Supreme Court remains intact and the Israeli government obeys High Court rulings, even the more questionable ones. Academic freedom is impressive, to say the least. Countries in which lecturers at institutions of higher education can support a boycott of that state, including the institution where they are employed, are few and far between. In Israel, a largely taxpayer-funded media wages a campaign against the positions held by the majority of the very public that finances it in the first place.
Israeli society is no more polarized or fragmented than any other country. It is true that as Jews, argumentativeness is in our blood. But to stretch this historic truth in order to present a false image of Israel being on the brink of a civil war is two-bit demagoguery at best. Israelis are connected to both their homeland and their spiritual-religious legacy. The vast majority of the population understands and appreciates the contribution the settlements in Judea and Samaria have made to the state, beyond the fact that they constitute the realization of the vision to return to the historic Jewish territories.
There is no doubt the left will use the investigations into alleged corruption by Netanyahu in its election campaign; it has nothing else to offer voters. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, there is no such thing as basic decency, the presumption of innocence or the need for a court’s ruling.
But focusing on the corruption issue will not help the left. The public understands this is an attempt to carry out regime change and circumvent the ballot box. Now that a date for elections has been set, the public will issue a firm response to this manipulation.
For the people of Israel in the land of Israel, it is important that the right look ahead and embark on a campaign focused on state security, the integrity of the land and continued prosperity. Victory is within reach. Unity on the right is the key to victory for future generations.
Dr. Haim Shine is a faculty member of Israel’s Academic Center of Law and Science, and a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors.