The political union between Netanyahu and Liberman caught us all by surprise, and the true motivation behind it is still a mystery. Is Bibi scared, or is it perhaps that the racist and extremist tone of Yisrael Beytenu is the real face of this Likud party? I don’t know. I have never been in Beitar; nor have I been a Likud member, but I get the feeling that Ze’ev Jabotinsky would not have been very proud of this step.
In 2006, Liberman’s first comment to the public after his party’s impressive showing in the Knesset elections was “I’m convinced that, next time, we will be the ruling party.” What never occurred to us back then was that the ruling party would be joining Liberman.
The choice in the upcoming election is now very clear, and its results will be determinant of the future of Israel as we know it. We Israelis can choose a Bibi-Liberman government that will pave the way to a fundamentalist country where settlers and tycoons define the rule of law; a country that’s proud of its occupier status, and invites international isolation and an inevitable one-state solution (given the reluctance to engage in the talks with the Palestinians).
Or, we can choose a government that will take us back to the principles of Zionism and the Declaration of Independence: to a country with separation between religion and state, with inclusive growth, where all citizens are equal under the law; with a commitment to end the settlements and the occupation; not only because the moral and ethical implications of continuing the occupation, but because its government will understand that the only way to keep Israel as we know it is through a two-states-for-two-peoples solution — before it becomes unfeasible.
This is a call for unity in the center-left: Labor, Yesh Atid, Meretz and other forces such as Livni and Olmert. This is the only way to beat Netanyahu.
The numbers are out there. A poll recently published in Haaretz showed that a new hypothetical party formed by an alliance between Olmert, Livni and Lapid would get 25 seats, while Likud under Netanyahu would get 24. In a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation, we can see how a center-left bloc, which would also include the Labor Party and Meretz, would be able to garner another 21 mandates. That’s 46 seats in total, compared to 37 seats that Likud and Yisrael Beytenu were projected to net in that pole.
This is a golden opportunity, and not a new experiment for the Israeli center-left. In fact, in 1968, three parties joined efforts to form what is known today as the Labor Party: Mapai, Ahdut Haavoda and Rafi. Just like the present-day parties that would form a center-left bloc, those three parties back in the ’60s had somewhat different ideologies, and did not get along very well. In fact, Rafi was formerly a split from Mapai led by David Ben-Gurion, who left in a huff in 1965.
If there is something we can learn from Netanyahu, it’s that political alliances are a smart tool for winning elections. Sadly, he will prove himself right again if we don’t do anything to unite among ourselves.