With a poll in Haaretz on Thursday putting the center-left within striking distance of achieving power, and the very next headline screaming “Likud-right-religious bloc ahead by a large margin,” it’s hard for the average Israeli to know what to believe. But one thing is clear: if you are in favor of strengthening civil liberties and a truly democratic Jewish state, the Labor Party headed by Shelly Yachimovich is your best bet next Tuesday. In my view as a candidate on the Labor list and the Secretary General of the party, ours is the only party that will fight for a fair economy, a just society and a sane country.
By now, the electorate is well aware of our detailed, fiscally responsible, fully costed, and fair plan to bring about a socially responsible economic recovery that will spread the benefits of growth from the bottom up. Even Netanyahu’s former chief numbers man, Professor Yaron Zelicha, has endorsed our plan, adding that Bibi’s “policies will cause an economic disaster.” By asking that the richest and most profitable companies and extractors of Israel’s natural resources pay their fair share, the Labor Party will be able to implement policies like reducing the VAT and bringing downward pressure on housing costs (by increasing housing stock in desirable areas) which will mean that working families won’t have to struggle so hard just to make ends meet.
But what about the state of our democracy and civil liberties? The current government has overseen an unprecedented attack on the independence of the legal system, which is one of the most vaunted aspects of our democracy, and a foundational, enduring reason for the respect our admirers have for us internationally. In contrast to the current government, a key element of our platform is that we see the judiciary as professional, autonomous, and independent. The Labor Party will defend the autonomous and independent status ofIsrael’s legal and judicial institutions, including the courts, the attorney general, the state prosecutor, and the state comptroller.
Then there is the matter of sharing the burden. The half-hearted attempt of the current government at dealing with the ongoing problem of mass haredi exemption from the army (and workforce) is a direct result of political coddling of the haredim in order to maintain Netanyahu’s large coalition. It doesn’t have to remain this way. A Labor government, while recognizing the great importance of keeping our Jewish values, history and legacy, and the importance of Torah study for a limited number of exceptional yeshiva students, would promote contributing to the country through army or civilian service among all sectors of Israeli society, including the haredim. We are not against the haredi sector – they are an important part of us here in Israel, always have been, always will be. But we are sure it will be of benefit to the whole country, and to the haredi sector, which will gain access to a key element of mainstream Israeli society and the skills that service brings with it, and they will thus more easily be able to enter both the workforce and our hearts.
In the Labor Party we also opened our doors and our hearts to the gay community in Israel. With an active LGBT faction and the strong support of Shelly Yachimovich, the gay community, and their rights, are very important to us. The Labor Party is committed to promoting full, substantive equal rights for the LGBT community in Israel, based on an uncompromising faith in equality for all. We will work to rescind all legislative or procedural discrimination based on sexual identity, and to eradicate physical and verbal violence and incitement against the gay community in Israeli society.
I could go on much longer, talking about full gender equality, religious rights, equality for minorities, and more. But the message is clear: the flavor of a Labor government would be massively different than the narrow, reactionary government of Netanyahu. For both a strong economy and a strong democratic Jewish state, with guaranteed civil liberties for all, vote Labor on Tuesday.
It can be so much better here!