What the left needs to do to win

A few days ago on Facebook, a few of my left leaning friends were debating the extent to which left leaning Jews and Israelis should support John Kerry pressuring Israel “for its own good”. Leaving aside the question of whether they should really involve themselves in debates crucial to Israel’s survival from the comfort and safety of Australia and America (a debate for another time perhaps), the general sentiment was that the Israeli public, obviously not mature enough to recognise that the left’s values are right, should be dragged kicking and screaming for its own good. Unfortunately this seems to be the opinion of many high profile players on the left such as J-Street, and leaders of Israel’s left block as well.

Once upon a time, leaders of both left and right in Israel believed in the virtues and wisdom of the populace. Take for example Menachim Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. While Begin spent decades in opposition with persuasion as his only weapon, Rabin was out trying to convince the public to come with him, literally in his last moments.

Somewhere along the line the left lost this. Despite their self proclaimed status as the guardians of democracy, ask yourself this: when, in the years since Ehud Barak served as Prime Minister, has an Israeli Labor leader seriously put forth the left’s case that their agenda is best for Israel and is a true and legitimate expression of Zionism? Whats more, when if at all has that leader made any real attempt to put forward this case without resorting to silly hyperbole that they must know is not going to win over anyone undecided and which they can’t seriously even believe themselves (think democracy is ending, Israel is turning into a fascist state, this is the absolute last chance for peace ever etc), or simply trying to justify the fact that their policies should be pursued anyway because the majority “votes wrong”.

Ask yourselves also, when organisations like J-Street and Peace Now have really explained why their beliefs are right, rather than simply spouting them and calling on the Americans to intervene against the wishes of Israel’s democratic majority.

There in lies the challenge for Bugie Herzog, the left, and left leaning organisations. If they really want to take power and bring about change they must recognise that they have to take the populace with them. True, the right might also engage in hyperbole, but for the moment as the incumbent it doesn’t need to win back voters, and for whatever reason, it has been successful in making its agenda synonymous with the term “Zionism”in recent years.

At the last election, despite there being no real viable leader on the left, the left block performed better than expected. It seems (possibly because of perceived kombinot by the government), Israelis were willing to consider a leadership change, but clearly someone has to stand up, leave the hyperbole aside and truly convince them, rather than seek to lecture and circumvent them.

About the Author
Joshua Koonin is an Australian lawyer, former political advisor and Jewish community activist seeking to bring politically minded people to Israel to gain a better understanding of the political issues that Israel faces. In 2013 he founded International Political Seminars to do this, and now runs political based leadership programs.
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