Kachol Lavan: Business as Usual or a New Paradigm?

The latest polls show that Kachol Lavan now trails Likud.  Some have speculated that the announcement that Bennie Gantz’s former company, the Fifth Dimension, is the subject of a police investigation, caused the downward slide of Kachol Lavan. I am skeptical: the AG’s office was emphatic that Mr. Gantz is not the target of this investigation, and Mr. Netanyahu will definitely stand trial, so only the most confused voters could  equate the two.

In the larger scheme of things, the announcement of the Fifth Dimension investigation is diversionary, because it shifts focus from what I believe is the central issue in this campaign and in fact the central issue of political life in Israel today.

Some have argued that Israeli democracy is broken, pointing to the paralysis of two and possibly three unresolved elections. I believe that Israeli  democracy is intact, but that our political culture has become dysfunctional and needs a radical  transformation to a new place.

For my entire life, the central axis of Israel political dialogue has been Right vs. Left. Ben-Gurion vs Begin, Avodah vs Herut has transitioned into Likud and fellow travelers vs  ”THE LEFT,” or whatever remains of that today (Labor-Gesher-Meretz?).

Netanyahu and cohorts have succeeded in turning “the left” into a bogeyman— “If you don’t vote for us ,THOSE TERRIBLE LEFTISTS WILL TAKE OVER!!!!!”

But the entire formulation is sterile, backward-looking and irrelevant to Israel’s future.

The truth is that right vs left has nothing to do with most of the pressing issues that the next government must deal with. For example:

  • Dealing with Israel’s shameful record of great poverty and extremes of social and economic inequality. Our Torah includes the most radical income redistribution strategy in human history — the redistribution of property in the 50th What is right or left about finding a  way to address poverty and social inequality today?
  • The environment – If the planet is burning there is not much that little Israel can do to stop it. But water, air pollution, the collapse of the Dead Sea are regional and local.  Again, is there a right or left when it comes to protecting the environment ?
  • The sorry state of Israel’s education system, especially the failure to adequately educate Haredi and Arab children. What is right and left about providing children with the skills and knowledge they need to flourish?
  • Israel needs to work out an effective balance between the rights of the Haredi minority to protect their lifestyle and culture and the rights of the majority to a modern civil society and religious freedom. This too is  not about right or left.

The list goes on: the deplorably high state of the cost of living, housing shortages, gaps in health care, etc. I see no right-left dichotomy on any of this.

And what about security? Isn’t this the quintessential right-left issue? I don’t think so. There is no one in Israel except those who have suicidal tendencies who doesn’t place the security and safety of Israel and its citizens on the highest possible level. And even the Israel-Palestine conflict needs a pragmatic breakthrough that transcends the traditional right-left ideological divide.

What does this have to do with Kachol Lavan? Actually, everything. Blue and White is neither left nor right; It is not even really centrist.

Kachol Lavan represents a commitment to decency and to the rule of law with compassion.  No, its leaders are not perfect. But  because they cross the tribal schisms that divide us —  religious and secular, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi,  old and young, capitalist and socialist —  they have the potential to create a new political paradigm that defies categories and labels.  They are far more likely to craft pragmatic approaches to the most pressing issues facing Israel than the ideologues of left and right.

Kachol Lavan represents a chance  — only a chance, but a chance none the less — to break the  right-left myth that is strangling our political system.  Give them the chance.

About the Author
Jack Ukeles is the president of Ukeles Associates Inc., a planning, policy research, and management firm for Jewish communities and organizations in the US, Israel, and world-wide.