“This branch of the left cannot win this fight,” writes the Times of Israel’s Haviv Rettig Gur in The end of Israeli democracy? “Its defiance of the underlying ethos of Israeli Jewish solidarity drives it inevitably away from the very body politic it seeks to change.”
His lesson “for anyone else who seeks to rehabilitate an Israeli left that has not won an election in 17 years” is “they cannot change Israel by scorning it.”
Rettig Gur’s excellent piece makes two key points:
Right and left agree on their roles in this morality play. The right defends Jews from terrorists; the left defends terrorists from Jews.
The left will correctly point out that this is unfairly simplistic. After all, there are a small minority of cases where the Jews are the terrorists. A neutralized terrorist should be defended. The issues are usually about innocent Arabs, not terrorists. And the left is concerned not only about terrorists but also about Israel’s long-term security, and about its Jewish soul.
Those points are simplistic too, so it would be great to discuss them constructively. We may agree about more than we think we do.
But instead of respectfully engaging their fellow Israelis, the left often wears its scorn for the Israeli voters like a badge of honor. When they can’t get judges to overrule the Israeli voters they turn to foreign governments and the UN.
The left’s role may be morally satisfying but it is electorally devastating. Every time the left calls on Israel to search its soul to find out where we became so immoral, it permanently alienates more of the Israeli center.
This morning, Israel Hayom released a poll showing that only 13% of Jewish Israeli youth identify with the left, compared to 59% who identify with the right. The left is moving left, and alienating itself from the electorate.
Similar phenomena, though usually to a lesser degree, are occurring across the West. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are more popular on the center-right than in the parties they once led. Bill Clinton walking back his denunciation of Black Lives Matter captured this moment well. Proud cultural and economic Marxists are taking over the left while their working-class former voters are finding new homes.
The Democrats in the US may be saved by the two-party system, as conservatives and nativists split the Republican party. Multi-party systems like Israel’s provide no such salvation.Latino immigration strengthens the Democrats. Israeli demographic changes further strengthen the right, because it has more kids.
Engaging the Israeli electorate with greater humility and respect won’t solve all of the left’s problems. But it would be a good start.
Rettig Gur worries for Israeli democracy, “for what is a democracy in which only one side can win elections?” I don’t share his concern. We will have exciting and important political discussions and elections; they will just take place further to the right.