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The unexpected opportunity of the Zionist left in Israel

In the wake of the tragic events of October 7th, the Israeli left-wing peace movement took a hard hit to the gut. The aftermath of this massacre has deepened the wounds inflicted upon an ideology already struggling to rise since the chaotic days of the Second Intifada. It represents a devastating blow to an ideology already on shaky ground, perhaps signaling its potential demise. The belief in a sustainable peace with our Palestinian neighbors has been shaken to its core, as fear grips Israeli society in the face of terrorism targeting civilians and vital infrastructure.

For many left-leaning voters, the journey has been one of disappointment and gradual abandonment of long-held convictions. The Idea of a genuine partner for peace across the border has gone rogue in the face of relentless violence. Faced with the harsh realities of security threats, even the most persistent supporters of peace have been compelled to reassess their ideological stance. The shift towards what is deemed the “center” has become a refuge, a retreat from the perceived idealism of the left to the pragmatism of security-centric policies.

The stigma attached to left-wing ideals in Israeli politics is obvious. Once considered as the vanguard of progressive change, the left now finds itself marginalized, its believers labeled as naïve and out of touch with the harsh realities of the region. The landscape of Israeli democracy, much like elsewhere in the world, is shaped by issues that resonate with voters on a personal level. In Israel, the most basic and most important concern is security—a sentiment magnified by the trauma of the Intifada and the recent horrors of October 7th.

This prevailing sense of insecurity has fueled a rightward shift in Israeli politics over the past two decades. The appeal of right-wing parties, with their emphasis on deterrence and steadfastness in the face of threats, has resonated with a populace yearning for stability and protection. Yet, the correlation between right-wing governance and security is far from straightforward. The darkest chapter in Israel’s security history unfolded under the watch of the most right-wing government in the history of the state of Israel, exposing the mistake of always associating right-wing policies with safety and stability. In Israel, it’s quite common to witness security and military figures advocating for compromise and left-wing policies to uphold security. It’s intriguing that in the political landscape, there’s a perception that the left is associated with being naive and insecure, while the right is seen as strong and secure.

The October 7th tragedy, though wrought with devastation, presents an unexpected opportunity for the Israeli left to reclaim its narrative. Recent polls indicate a potential resurgence of a Left Zionist party, led by former military figure Yair Golan, poised to challenge the prevailing political landscape. This resurgence hinges on a fundamental reorientation of the left’s agenda—one that places security at its core.

The link between left-wing ideology and security must be made explicit and compelling. It is imperative to dispel the notion that security is the exclusive domain of the right. Many left-leaning figures have demonstrated courage and resilience in the face of adversity, risking their lives to safeguard civilians on the front lines of conflict. This courage must be celebrated and leveraged to redefine the narrative of left-wing politics in Israel.

A Left Zionist movement that embraces a commitment to security alongside a fervent pursuit of peace holds the promise of resonating with a broad spectrum of Israeli society. The need for a peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbors goes beyond moral considerations—it’s essential for Israel’s security and identity. Ensuring a lasting peace is vital for maintaining our nation as both democratic and Jewish, a core principle of Zionism.

Today, it seems Palestinians are more inclined towards a two-state solution, seeking their own independent state. Surprisingly, many Israelis view this call with suspicion, fearing it’s a pretext to dismantle Israel entirely. However, we must recognize that a one-state solution, where two nations coexist, poses the greatest threat to Zionism. It forces us to choose between maintaining a Jewish identity and being democratic, given demographic shifts. In the future, we may find ourselves wishing Palestinians still pursued a two-state solution, as a one-state solution risks compromising our national identity and values.

In the wake of tragedy, there lies an opportunity for renewal—a chance for the Israeli left to reclaim its voice and redefine its purpose. As we confront the challenges ahead, let us not give in to despair, but rather seize this moment to chart a new course towards a future of peace and security for all who call this land home.

About the Author
Ido Tamir was born in Jerusalem and spent his formative years both in Israel and the United States. He served as a combat officer in the Maglan commando unit for five years. At 28 years old, he holds a bachelor's degree in law and is currently pursuing his M.A. in government. He is a 2024 fellow at the Argov Fellows program in Leadership & Diplomacy. Tamir is passionate about sports, entrepreneurship, real estate, music, traveling, and exploring new horizons.
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