Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

Another Election. Is There a Hope in the House?

So, the center-left is splintering; disappearing. At the moment, at least.

There could be some hope if Yesh Atid and Ron Huldai and Avi Nissekorn’s new party, “yisraelim,” would — please — run a joint ticket — that Labor and Meretz will join — the only way that Labor, and quite possibly, Meretz, too, will pass the electoral threshold.

What the latter two have to offer Yesh Atid and and Yisraelim is not clear but perhaps, if Labor stalwart, MK Merav Michaeli, took over the shreds of Labor, that would attract some votes and heavens, this is so drearily tired an issue to have to keep pressing– bring not just a woman’s face and voice, but an openly feminist one, to national leadership. I certainly don’t want to see Michaeli out of the Knesset because the two men who’ve most recently led Labor, Avi Gabbai and Amir Peretz, killed the party. The former of whom had the brilliant idea to ambush Tzipi Livni and axe her on live TV, ending Labor’s partnership with her Hatnuah party. He then took the party from 24 Knesset seats to 6. And Peretz, of-the-shaven mustache (the better to remind us that—watch my now bare lips—I will not sit in a government under Netanyahu!—unless I will)–  has taken it to below the electoral threshold now. Time– for a change! Is there any way but up?

The haredi parties have not said yes to Netanyahu’s request that they announce now that they back him. That is worrying since it means other parties will vie for their support: offer them constitutional democracy and the rule of law, gender equality, education worthy of the name, and an even more disproportionate share of tax money to get their votes. It’s the smart political move for them and bad for Netanyahu but very worrisome for the rest of us and for this society.

Polls show Lapid’s former partner in Yesh Atid, MK Ofer Shelah and his new party not passing the electoral threshold. Shelah is angling for haredi votes Yesh Atid will never get. Shame on him. He will not, in any case, get those votes. If Liberman manages to cut even a surplus vote sharing deal with Saar, maybe there is hope that Saar won’t fold to the haredi parties, as Bennet seems likely to do.

The same polls show a big jump/ bump for Yesh Atid if it joins with Huldai-Nissenkorn. A merger would actually sound very catchy:

Yesh Atid, Yisraelim!— There is future, Israelis!

Of course, “Israelis” means all of us, every ethnicity and religion. And Huldai, at least, is credible in saying that.  How utterly refreshing, and badly needed, a message, that. Let them court—the Israeli Arab, Druze, Circassian vote with a pledge at least to enshrine the Declaration of Independence as a Basic (constitutional) law alongside the gratuitous, destructive, nation-state law (Tzipi Livni’s idea, this). Let them run on that, among other platforms. And let them mean it. And put a representative number of women and non-Jews next in the electoral line up, in the first ten, and second of the list.

Both Lapid and Huldai, if not Nissenkorn, are untainted by compromise with Netanyahu in this fiasco of a coalition. Please, don’t waste that credibility. Join forces.

Amazingly, to me, at least, the most recent polls still show — Netanyahu—ranking highest when the question is, who is most capable of being PM. Saar is next. Then Bennet. Lapid is way behind them.

Netanyahu has brought big quantities of the Pfizer vaccine and we are now nearing a most impressive million vaccinated. He is betting that, come late March’s election, the fourth he has foisted on us and this battered economy in two years, people will have that foremost in mind and not his otherwise disastrous handling of the plague. Or his oh-so-very-long awaited trial, supposed to start soon.

So, time for those inclined, to please, give us yisraelim some hope.

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book, the first history of agunot and iggun across the map of Jewish history, with a critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals for fundamental change to end this abuse, is entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains to Free Agunot and End Iggun." She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. She opposes the Kotel deal, which would criminalize women's group prayer at the Kotel and end the site's status as a "national holy site," awarding it instead, to the haredi establishment. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.
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