On November the 27th 2012, the Likud party presented Israelis with its vision for the next four years. The results of the party’s primaries that took place that day revealed that a majority of the Likud’s members had voted for hawkish right wing candidates. MK’s such as Danny Danon, Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin all placed within the top 10 spots with Moshe Faiglin and Miri Regev following closely from behind. Veteran liberal members of the Likud party, such as Benny Begin, Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor, were all voted out. The vision outlined that day by the country’s ruling party was one of violence, bigotry and contempt for the democratic values that are at the heart of Israel. The Likud’s electorate decided to embrace the rhetoric of hate which has come to characterize hawkish Likud Members of Knesset.
The ultra-right wing elements in the Likud party are not representatives of the traditional Israeli right wing. Their ideology does not focus solely on the peace process and the fate of the Palestinian state. Rather, they target immigrant workers, refugees, the Palestinian-Israeli minority and even the Gay community. Along with the Otzma party’s Michael Ben Ari, the apparent protégé of the racist Rabbi Meir Kahanah, these demagogues represent the rise of a new nationalist right wing in Israel, one that is similar to extreme right wing parties that can be found across Europe.
In recent weeks, another right wing party has experienced a surge in its popularity. This is the Jewish Home party headed by the enigmatic Naftali Bennett. Bennett, a high tech entrepreneur, has succeeded in giving this party a fresh new look, one that according to recent polls appeals not only to the National Religious movement but also to secular youngsters who are searching for 2013’s trendy party.
Of course Bennett is no more than a mask whose role is to conceal his party’s true agenda. A new Facebook page dedicated to revealing the nature of the new Israeli right wing shows that the Jewish Home’s candidates believe that homosexuals are a threat to the Jewish people and should therefore be outlawed, that the Israeli court system and the police should be opposed as they are all anti-Semitic and that the expulsion of the Palestinian from their lands is the Jewish people’s greatest achievement. As Dean Martin sings, Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?
Interestingly, many of the secular youngsters who intend to vote for the Jewish Home would not be willing to adopt the views expressed by the party’s candidates. In fact, many would be adamantly against them. So the question remains, why are they still going to vote for this racist hardline party? The answer is that Israelis no longer vote for parties, they vote for people. In this case Mr. Bennet. When asked who they are going to vote for, most Israelis offer one syllable answers; Livni, Yachimovich, Netanyahu. The days of party affiliations are gone. And as liberal middle class Israelis vote for Netanyahu they will not pause to think about the parade of candidates that will enter the Knesset on his coattail. These candidates are nothing more than excess baggage.
The rise of the new nationalist right wing has turned the 2013 elections from unnecessary ones to crucial ones. The elections are now a referendum on the right wing’s vision for the future of our country. It should be made clear, however, that this vision has nothing to do with that which matters to the majority of Israelis. The future MKs from the Likud and the Jewish Home have no intention of wasting their time on trivial matters such as unemployment, assistance to the underprivileged and the enlistment of the Haridi community to both the IDF and the national workforce. These MK’s will dedicate their time to an all-out assault on Palestinian-Israelis, other minority groups and the Supreme Court, which they view as the last bastion of the left wing.
Given this reality, it is of paramount importance that another vision be presented to Israelis. One that seeks to promote a more just society and to strengthen, not weaken, the democratic foundations of Israel. A vision that offers a peaceful settlement to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and that highlights the fact that such a settlement is the key to Israel’s ongoing prosperity.
Until a few hours ago, this seemed a remote possibility. Both Shelly Yachimovich, leader of the Labor party, and Tzipi Livni, head of the new Hatnuah movement, failed to understand the importance of these elections. Rather than join forces and present us all with an alternative to the rhetoric of hate promoted by the Likud, they chose to part ways and segment the Center-Left bloc. But on Friday night Mrs. Livni gave an interview to Channel 2 news in which she called on Yachimovich and former TV personality, Yair Lapid, to join her in creating a Center-Left bloc that would combine efforts in order to defeat the right wing led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Livni’s call, which seems to be a genuine one, makes electoral sense. According to recent polls, her party along with Labor and Lapid’s Yesh Atid could receive more votes than the Likud-Yisrael Beyteinu partnership, which seems to be running out of steam.
First to answer Livni’s call was Yachimovich, who reportedly texted Livni immediately following her interview and suggested they meet. Yachimovich may be eager to join Livni, given her catastrophic attempt to appeal to right-wing voters, an attempt that might turn out to be the worst decision of the 2013 elections.
However, what eluded both women Friday night was that the third member of their bloc, Yair Lapid, has no intent of joining them. Lapid, after all, stands for nothing; no ideology, no values and no goals other than to be a minister in the next government. The former anchorman has no desire to wither away in the desert of the opposition, to promote legislation from the back benches and to miss out on the action. Born out of vanity, his one man party is the political equivalent of a ballistic missile. Lapid has planned a trajectory course that will catapult him from the heart of the Israeli consensus, Channel Two News, to the Ministry of Education. Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight!
Yair is the weakest link in a possible Center-Left bloc, one that cannot resist the temptation of power. Thus, his message in response to Livni’s call was that they should all join the next Netanyahu government in order to avert a disastrous right-wing Haredi coalition consisting of Likud-Yisrael Beyteinu, the Jewish Home and Shas.
Livni and Yachimovich may have both finally realized that the time has come to draw a line in the sand, that no matter what promises are made, they cannot support and legitimize a Likud government that boasts fascist hard line right wingers. Unfortunately, in his vanity, Lapid might do just that. Unfortunately, Livni cannot look Lapid square in the eyes and say “you are the Weakest Link. Goodbye.”