The election result carries significant and historic meaning only acknowledged by a few, namely the near-complete obliteration of progressive Zionism in Israel.
The mandate for Israelis who support peace, a welfare state and civil equality has fallen from 56 seats during the Rabin administration to 11 seats today. The process isn’t coincidental, and left-wing Israelis must be aware of it.
The gradual weakening of the Zionist left derives stems from the 1990s and the way general Israeli debate is dictated by the right-wing, led by Netanyahu. They have incited, divided Israel’s population segments, and unmercifully struck their political opponents. The Israeli left stands in shock, having failed to create a different agenda or narrative for the public.
In its weakness, the left’s strategy became ‘wearing a costume’ i.e. aligning its positions with those of the right. In doing so, it neglected the battlefield, as evidenced recently when Labor leader Avi Gabbay said “the left has forgotten what being Jewish is all about,” and “there is no need to evacuate settlements.”
The Israeli left gave up on its own agenda, wore its leaders down and failed at the ballot box. The lack of an alternative meant Israelis yet again put their trust in the right, which recognised this lack of genuine competition and radicalised its political positions against Arabs and the media.
There are no shortcuts in politics. Those who believe in democracy, equality and peace must re-examine and realise that to win support you must show the public your position, not wait to see theirs. The Zionist left must also build bridges with Israeli Arabs – a fifth of all Israelis. To not do so is to fall into a right-wing trap, and to shirk a minority that just wants to incorporate into Israeli life and society.
- Tomer Pines is chair of Young Labor