An Open Letter to Yair Lapid, MK

Dear Mr. Lapid, MK,

I have never voted for you, and under normal circumstances, I don’t think I ever would. You see, I am a Zionist socialist. I am the worst kind of Leftist Bibi Netanyahu could think of; I am an independent, and sometimes an original, thinker. I do no adhere to party lines, but I examine the issue and the situation, and then decide where I stand, based upon my principles and conscience. A long time ago when I was at University, someone said to me “only you sleep with your conscience”. That has been my guiding principle throughout my life. Perhaps, that is why I am writing to you.

Simply put, these are not normal circumstances. Politics in Israel is undergoing a metamorphosis, even though few people identify the process. While up until now, we have looked upon the political divide as being between Right and Left, the lines of battle are being redrawn. The divide is now between those who believe in Israel as a democracy as a way of life, where it being both Jewish and democratic are equally important to Israel’s existence (and therefore believe in the essential importance of the two state solution), and those for whom Israel being Jewish is the only imperative. For them, its democratic character is expedient, a convenient tool only for as long as it serves their purpose. They have no problem relinquishing Israel’s democratic character to achieve their paramount goal – a Jewish Israel. I once interviewed a professor from the University of Jerusalem for an article I wrote about Meir Kahane and the rise of Jewish fascism (I haven’t permission to mention his name, so he will remain anonymous). He defined fascism like this: when you take one principle, however lofty it is, and you elevate it so that every other principle and value becomes secondary and subjugated to its absolute and paramount importance, you have fascism. This is what characterizes the other side of this new political divide.

Over the last five years, we have been witness to very disturbing processes that Israeli society is going through. Our democracy is under attack, and we must acknowledge this.
1. Only yesterday, the vice president of the New Israel fund was detained and questioned at the airport, for nothing more than the political stance of the New Israel Fund. When our police begin to behave like political police reminiscent of dark regimes, we should begin to worry.
2. Only this week, the Jerusalem Municipality threatened to shut down a theatre because it agreed to allow the organization “Breaking the Silence” to use its premises in order to make its latest report public.

  1. The Knesset passed the regulation bill, legalizing the expropriation of privately owned property belonging to Palestinians, in order to allow Jewish settlements originally illegally built, to remain there.
  2. Last Yom haShoah, the deputy chief of Staff was attacked and censured for expressing his opinion that he identified worrying processes occurring in our society. Not that those that attacked him denied that these processes exist, but that he dared to express his concern in public.
  3. The Elor Azaria Affair. People who supported the execution of a wounded terrorist labeled those who thought his actions to have been wrong, traitors. The Chief of Staff was maligned and threatened. The Minister of Defense was forced to resign. The judges who found him guilty were threatened with the same fate as befell Yitzhak Rabin z”l.
  4. Jewish extremists burned down a Palestinian home in Duma, killing almost an entire family. Later at a wedding, the arsonists were lionized. Furthermore, these hooligans were given shelter by the settler community.

You know all about these incidents, I am sure, but perhaps you have not yet come to the realization that they are the manifestation of the direction this new political divide is taking us.

The present Israeli government is the most extremist government this country has ever had. At its head sits a man who is considered a political genius. Yet for all his genius, and having been in power for – how many years is it now? Nine years? – There is not one initiative he has put into motion or led. His entire modus operandi is to react to what happens and others initiate. He says he is a leader but he does not lead. More precisely he is more often led by his coalition partners. He enables the radical and extremist agenda of Bennett and Lieberman, and all so that he can remain in power and enjoy the status and luxurious trappings of being Prime Minister. His passive non-leadership is leading us to an abyss, and like the suicidal instinct of lemmings, we will all blindly follow and jump off the cliff. Unless he is stopped.

That, Mr Lapid, is why I am writing to you. In the upcoming elections, I believe it is imperative that we put aside all extraneous and semantic issues, and concentrate on what is the one and only true priority – to stop Israel’s headlong rush towards becoming a despotic regime, led by extremists who represent barely 30% of what the population wants. By my count, 75 of the 120 Knesset members believe in Israel being a sane, principled democracy (and I didn’t count the Joint Arab List). That’s nearly two thirds of the house. Two thirds of the Israeli public voted for a balanced democratic representation, and what we have today is an extremist government, a raging bull set loose by our Prime Minister, which is toppling the pillars upon which democracy stands, one by one. Freedom of speech. Respect for the law. Respect of ownership. Equal rights for all citizens. This is what should be our priority. We can work out the other stuff later.

Although traditionally I have voted for Avoda, since they have represented my principles and beliefs the closest, the party has for some time now always choked at crunch time and hit the self-destruct button, stifling any natural leadership to come to the fore. Today, it suffers from a dearth of inspirational leadership, capable of becoming a viable alternative to Bibi’s right wing government. They have no chance. So, I have come to a decision that in the next elections, I am going to vote for the candidate who has the best chances of achieving what I see as Priority Number One. It could be Moshe Ya’alon. It could even be Gidon Sa’ar. It could also be you. However, in order to achieve this goal, all the “sane” politicians have to come together and form one block. We cannot afford to lose votes by splitting loyalties. We need to present a viable, vibrant option, led by people who can show that they are willing to set aside their egos and personal interests in order to save Israel and pull it back from the abyss.

Do not be intimidated by Netanyahu if he calls you a “Leftist”. You can dominate the narrative and take a moral stand as a true democrat. Especially if you manage to bring together people who are identified as centrists, or even right wing, but democrats, like Dan Meridor and Orly Levi Abekasis. Your part in this coalition of interests is essential to its success. If you choose to abandon it, we will be left with the traditional dynamics of Left vs Right, and we will have no chance of changing the direction this country is going in.

I therefore implore you to reconsider your decision not to join a Center-Left bloc. Call it a democratic bloc. You are charismatic. Assert your leadership beyond your party’s loyal partners. If you do this and succeed, you will have proven that you have the ability and the character to become Prime Minister.

With respect,

Paul Mirbach

Kibbutz Tuval

About the Author
Paul Mirbach made aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz transforming rocks and mud to a green oasis in the Gallilee. He served in infantry during his army service, serving in both Lebanon and the West Bank, including on reserve duty during the first intifada. Paul still lives on Tuval with his wife and two sons.
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