By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
One of the election ads on behalf of the Zionist Union has Tzipi Livni tell viewers about the distinguished lineage of Isaac Herzog and Herzog telling us of the prominent family that Livni comes from. Both families were actively and honourably involved in helping to bring about the State of Israel.
The pair also reminds us that the Livnis were on the right of the political spectrum whereas the Herzogs were on the left. They’re now together because the other parties have gone astray from the original vision of their founders and their early leaders.
The Zionist Union is very much a centrist party. Though it would form a very different government from the one now in power, it doesn’t promise much when it comes to peace making with the Palestinians, and they only commit themselves not to expand the settlements deep into the West Bank. The assumption is that those situated just beyond the Green Line would stay. Not exactly a left-wing agenda.
Moshe Kahlon, who heads the new party Kulanu, reminds us in his ad that he had been a member of a previous Likud government, but had to leave and establish his own version because – and here I paraphrase – Likud has been hijacked by the far right.
Though such ads have to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, there’s much truth in this particular charge. Likud which at one point had absorbed Israel’s Liberal party, now has among its top candidates rabid right-wingers who are bound to steer Netanyahu in their direction. In fact, one – Danny Danon – recently even challenged (unsuccessfully) Netanyahu for the leadership of the party.
The move away from the original direction is particularly noticeable in Habayit Hayehudi. It claims to be the heir of the old Mizrachi, later National Religious, party, led by the affable and fair-minded Dr Joseph Burg, the late father of gadfly Avram. Burg senior was a modern Orthodox Western educated Jew who had the aura of a true statesman about him. Naftali Bennett, who now leads Habayit Hayehudi, is Burg’s antithesis in every respect as are virtually all candidates on his list.
The left has also vanished. It’s not even certain that Meretz, the rightly describes itself as a leftist party, will get enough votes to pass the 3.25% minimum, perhaps because people like me who normally vote Meretz think that their vote will do more good if cast for the Zionist Union.
The struggle then is between the far right and the centre that hovers between mildly left and mildly (as opposed to rabidly) right. Uri Avneri, the veteran far-left journalist writing in Ha’aretz last Thursday, may be correct when he suggests that instead of seeking to distinguish between right and left in this election we should differentiate between racists and humanists.
The polls seem to suggest that the racists are more likely to form the next government. The consequences of that in terms of Israel-US relations, the so-called peace process and protection of the disadvantaged in Israeli society are ominous.
As I write this on Purim, I’d like to end on a cheerful note. All that I can muster, however, is the possibility of a centrist – humanist! – government, probably under Netanyahu, that includes Herzog, Livni, Kahlon and Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, with the tacit support of the United Arab List that may become a force this time.
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By Rabbi Dow Marmur.