Today, citizens of Israel are marching to the polls to vote for the election of the 21st Knesset and to decide who will lead the next government. While the right-wing parties maintain a formidable lead in opinion polling, uncertainty remains. What is clear, however, is that the next Prime Minister will not be a leftist.
Netanyahu’s only real opposition is the newly formed centrist party, Kachol Lavan (Blue and White). Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, the party leaders, are the former IDF Chief of Staff and Netanyahu’s ex-Minister of Finance, respectively. The Israeli Labor Party, reminiscent of the labor, socialist Zionism of early statehood, has largely vanished from the political scene.
Regardless of any assertions to the contrary, the Israeli left has largely disappeared for the time being. Left-wing anti-Zionist journalist Abraham Riesman wrote an amusing piece for New York Magazine that, upon slight scrutiny, falls flat. Disregarding his unabashed distaste for Jewish self-determination and liberation (such as his repeated reference to “indigenous Arabs,” thus insinuating that Jews are foreign invaders), his argument is based on a bigoted assumption: Zionists cannot be left-wing.
Anyone who has studied Zionist history would understand that the Jewish people’s Zionist aspirations arose not from a desire to “conquer” or to “colonize” but from a millenia-old yearning for freedom in our land. Zionist pioneers from the First Aliyah in 1882 onward were overwhelmingly socialist. Not until the election of Menachem Begin’s Likud in 1977 did Israel have a right-of-center government.
Unsurprisingly, however, Mr. Riesman accepted the assertions of Palestinians who were raised in a culture of unabashed antisemitism. He buys into the notion that Zionism is inherently right-wing and fascist, and quotes a Palestinian, Yara Hawari, who proclaimed that Israel is a “fascist state” that has no “left wing.”
While more than eager to place the blame on the Jewish State, what Mr. Riesman fails to address is the failings of the Israeli left and the impact that it has had on Israeli politics.
In 1992, the Israeli left won 61 out of 120 seats in the Knesset. Today, only 12% of Israelis identify as leftists.
Firstly, the Oslo Accords, signed under the left-wing Rabin administration, proved to be an utter failure. While at first viewed as a momentous achievement that would lead to a peaceful two-state solution, Israelis soon began to view the Accords as a imminent danger to Israeli national security. After numerous violent incidents, culminating in Palestinian policemen firing at IDF troops, the Israeli public lost faith in the agreement. After the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a far-right extremist, Netanyahu narrowly won the election, cementing Israel’s rightward drift.
However, the Oslo Accords was hardly the last hurrah for the Israeli left. Subsequent failures under left-wing Barack and centrist Sharon governments marked the true end of labor Zionism. After Arafat stubbornly rejected the generous Israeli proposal during the Camp David Summit in 2000, the Second Intifada broke out and lasted for at least five years. Once again, the Palestinians reiterated that all efforts at peace and reconciliation would be rewarded with terror. The final nail in the coffin came from the centrist Ariel Sharon government, which conducted the Gaza disengagement in 2005.
Israeli soldiers forcibly removed Jews from Netzarim, Kerem Atzmona, and many other communities. In retrospect, the disengagement resulted in bloodshed rather than peace. Immediately after the disengagement, Gazans destroyed Israeli infrastructure. In January 2006, the Gazan people elected an anti-Semitic terrorist group, Hamas, who have since launched many thousands of rockets upon Israeli civilians.
A more nuanced view of Israel’s challenges sheds light on why the left has crumbled: Labor Zionism’s vision of a socialist Israel alongside a Palestinian State is incompatible with Israel’s modern security needs. The Iranian Regime continues to expand across the Middle East, forming a curtain of terror from Gaza to Damascus to Beirut. On Israel’s northern borders, Hezbollah waits patiently, armed with Iranian missiles, for Israel to falter. In Gaza, Hamas is waiting to launch the next barrage of missiles at Sderot, Nahal Oz, or perhaps at Tel Aviv.
For seventy years, Israel has been threatened with annihilation by nearly all her neighbors. War after war of attrition and intermittent bouts of terror and rocket fire have further ingrained a sense of survival in the Israeli psyche.
Regardless of who wins today, the people of Israel have already made their decision. Never again will the Jewish people surrender in the face of annihilation. In the words of Moshe Dayan, “This is the choice of our lives— to be willing and armed, strong and unyielding, lest the sword be knocked from our fists, and our lives severed.”
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.