A New Israeli Opposition

There have been many thousands of words spilled already, some right here, about the implications of Tuesday’s election in Israel for negotiations with Iran, for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for U.S.-Israel relations, and for the two major parties in the United States. There’s been less talk, certainly in the U.S., about what the Israeli Left ought to do.

From the gimlet eye of Gershom Gorenberg comes this observation and call to action in Haaretz:

It’s hard to draw much comfort from the fact that Likud drew votes away from Naftali Bennett’s annexationist Habayit Hayehudi; from Yisrael Beitenu of Avigdor Lieberman, who has sought to disenfranchise Arab citizens; and from Eli Yishai’s ultra-nationalist, ultra-Orthodox Yahad party on the radical right, which fell short of entering the Knesset. Netanyahu has adopted basic elements of their anti-democratic platforms.

Until now it has been possible for Zionists on the left to defend and criticize our country in the same breath: as a democracy – flawed, evolving and embattled – within the Green Line, even while it continues the colonial project of settlement just beyond its border. Historically this is accurate. But Netanyahu has made it more difficult to take this nuanced position in the present, since our prime minister sees the Green Line as the border between where Arabs can’t vote and where they shouldn’t.

For the left to despair, though, will give Netanyahu a further victory. Explicitly and proudly defying his racist rhetoric, Jews and Arabs must join in a fighting opposition, inside the Knesset and outside. What’s at stake is democracy itself.

That opposition coalition will be difficult to form and even more difficult to maintain, but it may represent Israel’s only viable future.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.