In a country where arguing politics is in the morning coffee, what remains to be said about tomorrow’s fateful election? What is clear to all Israelis is that opportunity knocks, at this juncture. With eight and a half million semitic citizens, there are at least 17 million opportunities being considered this evening. The opportunity confronting my friends and colleagues in the peace movement is to rid ourselves of a key source of our country’s troubles, the current prime minister. He’s not THE source… decades of occupation, the sour fruit of the ’67 war, is the source. For 10 years, he is the chief stoker of the furnace of hatred, divisiveness, and disdain for democracy, a deeply dismal leader. He represents a nightmare vision of Israel’s future… grim, greedy, resignation to the Sabra gone bad.
No one knows how the alternative will look. But so many of us are ripe for a sea change, here in Israel and Palestine. Ripe for grimness to end, ripe for some respite, for fresh hope.
Where does this opportunity find each of us? Are we languishing before this evening’s newscast, planning to be on the beach rather than vote on Tuesday, blind to the fact that not voting is a vote for whatever circumstance will bring upon us?
Or perhaps we are tired, cynical old liberals, by now certain that we will not see peace in our time, vying to predict most accurately the shape of Israel’s demise. Old liberals who have all but extinguished the memory of the euphoric sense of possibility that characterized the breakthrough days of Oslo.
We may be city employees who barely scrape through the month, while visiting our mothers lying in the hallways of our overcrowded hospitals, trying in vain to ask a nurse a question, blind to the link between our mother’s suffering and the policies of our prime minister. Or the parents of learning-disabled children whose classrooms are bursting with need, while personal attention is nearly non-existent. Maybe we are ambitious young Tel Aviv hi-tech stars, seeking only big bucks and the good life, and screw everyone else?
Do Tuesday’s voters know that together we are determining the shape of our lives, that the fork in this road leads either to a newly-created future or to the decimation of all we love in Israel?
None of the electoral hopefuls inspire us. Yet imagining Benny Gantz as prime minister brings a breath of fresh air, and a hint of the blessed, beautiful Israel we long for. This is clear: after this election, any result will still call us forth to carry forward the struggle for justice, for peace. And yes, an election victory, veering away from the right-wing precipice will surely bring some wind to our sails. So many Israelis WANT to care again, to join in building the possible fulfillment of a future we no longer dare to dream.
In Seattle, after Trump’s election, a 70 year old social worker told me, “I have to thank Trump for calling this old 60s leftist back into action. I never thought I’d be out demonstrating again, and organizing for hours on the phone.” We Israelis can thank BB and his thugs for driving us to the brink of despair, where perhaps the atrophied muscle of activism will finally be slapped alive. Tuesday, we take the first step toward the horizon of hope. There’s no alternative.