Can Leftist Labor Right its Sinking Ship?
Yitzhak Rabin with Shimon Peres at 1980 Labor Party Convention (Image credit: Moshe Milner/Government Press Office of Israel)
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union - Labor) said at a demonstration in Ramat Hasharon in central Israel on Saturday that “religionization,” in his view, includes soldiers praying at the Western Wall.
“It became known to me that after Operation Protective Edge, one of the battalions of the Golani Brigade heading from the south took a slight detour on the way and jumped to the Western Wall, and the whole battalion made gomel (the blessing thanking G-d for being saved from a dangerous situation -Ed.). This is religionization at our expense,” he said. Bar-Lev asserted that the battalion had traveled to the Western Wall “at the expense of the taxes we pay.”
Bar Lev's famous father, General Haim Bar-Lev, then a Labor MK, argued against a Knesset resolution in May 1980 condemning a terrorist ambush that claimed the lives of six Jews leaving Friday night Shabbat services in Hebron.
He charged that the presence of the Jews was in part responsible for the killings. Further, Bar-Lev referred to the weekly “procession” from the Cave of Machpelah synagogue to a former Hadassah clinic as a needless provocation of the Arabs.
Bar-Lev senior was also the creator of the “impenetrable” Bar-Lev Line of defense along the Suez Canal, whichcrumbled in less than two hours during the Yom Kippur War.
A few weeks ago, another Labor blue blood gave voice to her Zionism. Merav Michaeli told an Australian panel, "The core family as we know it, unfortunately, is the least safe place for children."
This week a group of former Labor leaders from the so-called “Parliament of Peace Forum,” including former Labor Party chairman Amram Mitzna, made the requisite pilgrimage to Ramallah. There they met with PA head Mahmoud ("There was no holocaust") Abbas. Mitzna reported the “good news” after the meeting that "We have a peace partner!" When asked by a journalist, "What kind of partner pays terrorists for killing Jews and names streets after them?,” he said something along the lines of "our side is not free of guilt either."
Considering the above very recent items, it’s no wonder that the new Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay has begun to steer his ship suddenly sharply to the right. He knows that his sinking ship cannot continue alienating a growing majority of Israelis. In surprising statements one after the other, he has begun a campaign of trying to bring the Labor party back into, or nearing, the Israeli mainstream.
He declared that Jewish "settlements" need not be evacuated in a peace deal. He said that his party will never sit in a coalition with the anti-Zionist Arab party. He denounced one of his Arab MKs, Zouheir Bahloul, for refusing to attend the 100 year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration while claiming that as an Arab, he is "not a free person in Israel."
It is unclear what Gabbay really believes, but it seems that he realizes that the noisy echo chamber of the secular elites that have always run Labor is increasingly way out of touch with "Joe Israeli." And he is absolutely right.
The Future of the Left
Is it too late for Labor to return to the hearts of the majority of Jews in Israel? I would say, “Yes.”
Some of the Labor blue bloods will not change their tune or agree to be silenced by an upstart populist chairman. They may find themselves joining Meretz which is officially abandoning all Jewish roots of Zionism in favor of a "state of all its citizens." They try to attract Arabs and pro-Arab Jews.
Others will follow their opportunistic senses and tow the line, much like the "no ideology" gang of the short-lived Kadima party.
Israelis are not stupid, and even stupid people learn something from experience. I believe that the left, in any disguise it chooses, will never govern in this land again. The question is will the right govern as it is expected to by its voters? Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been a great disappointment to many of his constituency time and again.
As more Israelis wake up from the Oslo stupor and understand how removed their Jewish souls actually are from continued double-talk and from those who brought us the gifts of Yasser Arafat and a “new” Middle East, they will demand better than they have been served until today. There are large cracks visible in the institutions that have kept the blinders on the people. The courts, media, academia, and politicians are not the demigods they used to be.
Social media has been one of the elements of erosion that has led to the cracks, but rivers of Jewish blood have been the painful and frustrating conduit that, unfortunately, continually deepen them.
So, today, the left must hide, put on a mask, or openly join the enemy. Their days of high-handed rule are gone. Meanwhile the Netanyahu years have been a painful waste of lost opportunities and political survival games: lots of great speeches (including the not great speech of his recognizing an Arab state in our land), releasing thousands of terrorists, and building freezes in the liberated lands.
This week marks the anniversary of the assassinations of two famous Jewish leaders. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who gave the order to sink the Irgun ship Altalena with Menachem Begin aboard in 1948, and then later brought us Arafat and company in 1993.
The other Jewish leader, a Torah scholar and lover of all Jews, was also killed - not because he was giving away our land to the enemy, but because he fought to retain it and expel those who would take it and our very lives from us.
One was deemed a martyr, a demigod, by the establishment; and the other a madman. The Jews of Israel increasingly know who was mad and who was right. There is a future G-d willing.
Better late than never?
Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, is the director of Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel.