Time to bin left and right terminology in Israel
By Gilad Atzmon
Most commentators on Israel fail to see that notions of “left” and “right” are pretty much irrelevant to the understanding of Israeli politics. Israel defines itself as the Jewish state and, as the years pass, it is indeed becoming more and more Jewish.
Naftali Bennett, who for a while appeared to be the rising star of the current election, realized this all too well. He reinvented Jewish Home, a political party that celebrates the Israeli aspiration to fulfil his co-religionists Jewish destiny: he promised his followers that they can live as the chosen people in their Jew-only state, regardless of ethical or moral concerns.
But then most, if not all, Jewish participants in the Israeli political game are committed to the “Jewish state” dream. Of course, they differ on some minor practical and pragmatic issues, but they clearly agree on the basics. Here is an old Israeli joke: “An Israeli settler suggests to his lefty friend – ‘Next summer we should put all Arabs on buses and get them out of our land.’ The lefty replies: “OK, but make sure the buses are air-conditioned.”
The assumption that there is political division in Israel is just a myth that the goyim (gentiles) are happy to buy into because it gives the impression of the possibility of political change and even spiritual transformation.
In Israel there are no hawks or doves. Instead, all we have is a mild debate between a few interpretations of Jewish tribalism, nationalism and supremacy. Some Jews want to be surrounded by towering ghetto walls – they like it, it’s cosy, it feels safe – others prefer to rely on the Israeli army’s power of deterrence. Some would support the excessive use of white phosphorous, others would like to see Iran wiped out.
The assumption that there is political division in Israel is just a myth that the goyim – or gentiles – are happy to buy into because it gives the impression of the possibility of political change and even spiritual transformation. But the grave truth is that, when it comes to the real fundamentals, Israelis are pretty much united: Labour leader Shelly Yachimovich and war criminal Tzipi Livni were both among those who rushed to support Binyamin Netanyahu’s Operation Pillar of Cloud. Yair Lapid, the leader of the second biggest Israeli party, also identified as a centre leftist, wouldn’t refuse a ministerial job by Netanyahu. Meretz, which though a Zionist party, is the only Jewish party in Israel that has even a trace of ethical, universal thinking and values of equality, still comprises a mere six Knesset members out of 110 Jewish MPs.
So If we want to grasp Israeli politics, we need to bin our 19th century archaic terminologies of left and right and start to dig into the real culture and ideology that drives the Jewish state. Israel, with not a single Jewish party that has empathy towards Palestinians in its political agenda, defies the very notion of universal equality. It is concerned solely with the interests of the chosen people, and the results of the Israeli election confirms this. All we see is a vacuous competition between different Judeo-centric narratives.