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We are witnessing a seismic shift, a significant upheaval, and a withdrawal from politics by many in Israel. Not only did the hearts of Israelis break on October 7th, but the worldviews of many among us have also been shattered. What will the political landscape look like in the days to come? The left may form a government without Benjamin Netanyahu, while the right will have to deal with the aftermath.
There is a noticeable difference between the two camps that have preserved the classic division between left and right in Israeli politics for the past century.
Why has this happened in the past century? Because except for a few outliers who were on the fringes from the start and have since dwindled, there is no longer an Israeli leftwing camp since September 2000. When former prime minister Ehud Barak went to Camp David and came back to Israel with what became known as the “Al-Aqsa Intifada,” many on the left, who also liked to call themselves the “Peace Camp,” realized that the discussion about territory for peace, the Western solution that they had tried to impose on the Middle East, existed primarily between Labor and Meretz, not with the enemy and neighbor.
It is true that it took time for this ideological defeat, filled with good intentions and generations of kibbutzniks who could play a few chords of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” on an acoustic guitar, to sink in. However, Operation Defensive Shield, led by Ariel Sharon (after a relentless wave of terror attacks), already gained near-consensus, accompanied by the steady decline in the number of mandates for the only parties that dared to call themselves “left”: Labor and Meretz.
Born in January, deceased in October
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what these two parties were: Meretz reached its peak with 12 mandates, and the Labor Party, even during the days of Mapai (its earlier version), had over forty mandates. The last Labor leader to form a government was Ehud Barak, and that was almost 25 years ago.
The left of recent years has mostly been a figment of the right’s imagination. It was consumed by a condescending moral stance it displayed upon its disconnection (the “Yitzchak Rabin assassination” by the right). Despite this condescension, the left played no effective political role other than serving as a foil to Netanyahu.
It all began with claims that the Left “Forgot what it means to be Jews,” and continued with the march of the “extreme left.” At times it was Avigdor Liberman, the settler stuck in the mud; other times, it was another settler, this time from the religious right, like the former police commisioner, Roni Alsheikh. At times it was Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett, a former high-tech millionaire, former Avichai Mandelblit who served as the Attorney General, Ayelet Shaked with her “fragrance of fascism” commercial, Yoaz Hendel, Gideon Sa’ar, Ze’ev Elkin, and the list goes on.
In Netanyahu’s imaginary world, the extreme left continued to absorb new recruits, despite its non-existence. Even its political partnership with a Muslim Arab party, ostensibly the right’s nightmare, did not yield any pragmatic compromise. Quite the opposite – when it came to Gaza, it was much more resilient than most of Netanyahu’s governments.
Here’s a small paradox: the fact that the Zionist left did not exist in practice (represented in the Knesset today by only four MKs from the Labor Party) does not mean that it has not had a significant impact since October 7th.
Due to its political inertia, this camp continues to wield considerable influence and challenges the fundamental beliefs of many. Why? After September 2000, when the Oslo dream exploded, the left transitioned from a constructive definition to one that primarily denies what Israel has become: more nationalist, more religious, more Middle Eastern – and lately, more opportunistic and corrupt.
What defined the left in recent years was not the kind of country it wanted Israel to be, but the one it believed had been stolen from it, the one that disgusted it. Bitter (or “sour,” as Netanyahu diagnosed before losing touch with reality) feelings were gradually absorbed, except for the 10% on the fringe who were extreme from the start and have only shrunk. These 10% represented the obstacle to their salvation from prosecution.
Thus, the camp that turned from the left to “anyone but Bibi” is reemerging as a protest movement that rediscovers Israeli activism (in other words, it is born on January 4th and dies on October 7th).
Add to this the method of appointments, where only those who show loyalty to the “master” are rewarded with senior positions, and even on the right, which won the elections decisively, begins to remember the nightmares of Jotham’s fable, who counted the trees on which the thorns crowned him.
Shock turns into anger, anger turns into frustration
Let’s tie the loose ends: the disillusionment on the right is not ideological but highly focused and personal.
It’s personal not only concerning Netanyahu (and his family) but also regarding a significant portion of the ministers he appointed, who were exposed as empty vessels when put to the test. Even when they were to the right of him, where the ideology is more extreme, as is the case for a significant part of the religious Zionist Zionism, it would have been better to put the reins in the hands of more suitable representatives.
On both sides of the political spectrum, there is deep frustration. On the right, it is tactical, but very centered and personal. It is not just about Netanyahu, but also about many of the ministers he appointed, who have been revealed as hollow instruments. Even when they are more ideologically extreme, as is the case with much of the religious Zionist camp, it would have been wiser to place the reins in the hands of more suitable representatives.
On the left, the frustration runs much deeper. Some on the left, even though they understood that their ideological belief in peace did not yield any practical political hope, continued to cling to the belief in human spirit, the capitalist vision (yes, in Israel,
Predicting the direction in which this political transformation will lead Israel is a challenging endeavor, given the profound shifts occurring within both sides of the political spectrum. It’s important to note that we haven’t even explored the potential impact on “second-tier” sectors such as the ultra-Orthodox or the Arab sector.
On one side, there is a faction that will seek to draw closer to Israeli identity, while on the other, some will distance themselves further from it. The second group, which has partially adopted Western norms due to its Israeli citizenship, faces the difficult choice between the national loyalty forged in blood and the relative liberal values they share with those who see them as second-class citizens.
If elections are held soon, say in mid-2024, their outcomes are likely to mirror the emerging trends seen in polls. This includes the complete disappearance of the classic left, with perhaps a brief resurgence for Meretz, largely due to Yair Golan (who became one of this war’s symbols). In parallel, a more significant political shift is in store – the permanent end to Netanyahu’s public career, as opposed to a temporary hiatus lasting only a year and a half.
Looking into the long-term future, predicting the shape of Israel’s political and social landscape becomes exceedingly challenging. Logically, it might become more right-wing, more Jewish, internally cohesive, and more isolationist on the global stage, all while simultaneously opening up to various internal currents that have collectively fought for change. However, how these shifts will manifest, particularly on the day when American pressure calls for the revival of policy initiatives to maintain their protective support, remains an elusive puzzle.
The complexity of the situation is compounded by the fact that many ideas that once seemed reasonable to a significant portion of the population have crumbled in the face of overwhelming sorrow and disillusionment.
We update regularly World Latest Breaking News here. We update 2023-11-21 21:26:00 this news story from official website – https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/politics-and-diplomacy/article-774377.”
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