As we enter the fourth round of elections in two years, there exists a misconception that nothing has changed. The argument is that Bibi remains Bibi, and if the fourth round does not help him, we will go to a fifth. The despair on the Left is deep, as is that on the Arab street. The Right runs with three heads, while the Left gropes its way through the darkness, continuing to lose blood, and has no chance to influence decision-making. This is the landscape when you examine Israeli politics with a narrow, national vision. Yet from April 2019 to March 2021, the political, social, and economic reality has changed, and changed forever. In tatters is the right-wing bloc that gave Netanyahu the opportunity to stop any competitor and force elections while maintaining his position. On the other hand, the Arab bloc, which worked hard to gain 15 seats in parliament, has also crumbled. Israel’s political arena is undergoing a fascinating change, heralding the start of a new era.
In the last two years, Netanyahu has shaken Israeli society mercilessly in order to obtain the 61 seats that he needs to get immunity from justice. Not only did he repeatedly fail, but he was forced to reach a scandalous agreement with Benny Gantz (the two-headed government) in hopes of gaining time and changing his fate. The main factor forcing him to agree to a division of power was the COVID-19 pandemic, which he has failed to manage. Netanyahu realized that Israeli citizens will not forgive him for bringing on another round of elections while the pandemic is raging, businesses are closing, hospital wards are full, and millions of students are staring at a teacher from home via Zoom.
Netanyahu did not want an election at this time, just before the third lockdown, but his obsession with his trial, slated to commence in February, clouded his judgment, and things slipped out of control. The revolt within his party, which occurred in parallel to a revolt against Gantz in the Blue and White party, created the majority needed to dissolve the Knesset. From then on, Netanyahu’s fate has not been in his hands.
The claim that this election will change nothing, since it is no more than a confrontation within the right-wing camp, expresses a very narrow view of reality. Netanyahu’s departure marks the end of an era. He symbolized much more than the ideological Right, which frightens the Zionist Left so much. He also represented the global current of the economic and social Right. Netanyahu warmly adopted the American neoliberal system, i.e. the privatization of the public sector. This is how the paradise of piggish capitalism was created. Gideon Saar continues this path, albeit without Bibi’s cigars and pink champagne. Yet while Bibi burst onto the scene in the early 2000s, when neoliberalism was at its peak, Gideon Saar appears just as the world is announcing the end of neoliberalism because of the disasters it has inflicted on the West. The new consensus is that neoliberalism has created social chaos, which gave birth to the promiscuous Trump-style populism in the US and UK. The British are now dealing with the results of Brexit and the Americans with a pandemic that has claimed over 300,000 lives. The latter are stuck as well as with a president who refuses to acknowledge the election results and threatens to destroy democracy in Samson style: “I’ll die with the Philistines.”
After March 23, 2021, when the results of the Israeli elections are announced, the United States will already be in the midst of a radical political change that will impact it and the world. There can be no greater contrast than that between a government headed by Saar or Bennett here and one led by Joe Biden there, with his Vice President Kamala Harris and a cabinet that reflects the demographic change undergone by the US. The Democrats’ goal is to correct past mistakes and prevent the dangerous return of Trump, or one like him, in 2024. The two main axes on which the Biden administration will revolve are the war on poverty and the fight against climate change. And what do Saar and Bennett promise us? School tours of Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs? The imposition of Israeli sovereignty over the settlements? Closing groceries on Saturdays? Making schools more religious? Changing the Supreme Court and the legal system so Jewish rights trump human rights? A system in which judges kowtow to politicians?
Reality is moving in the opposite direction from Netanyahu’s successors. They are not facing the fact that the continued preference of the private over the public sector, the continued creation of social disparities, and the widening gap between the lives of Israelis and the lives of Palestinians, are leading to consequences no less disastrous than those undergone by Americans under Trump.
Hence the dilemma facing the Left is much deeper than the question of yes Bibi or no Bibi. A change in perceptions and a thought revolution are required, which can certainly draw from the changes occurring in American society and the Democratic Party. The challenge facing the Left cannot be reduced to adherence to Israel’s Declaration of Independence and slogans like a “Jewish and democratic state” or “Two states for two peoples”. The reality of the 21st century has long since emptied these of content.
The Left in Israel must adopt a new vision, and answer a simple question: in what kind of society do we want to live? From this starting point it will find the answer. To fight fascist nationalism, the Jewish Nation-State Law, and the social gaps dividing society along ethnic lines, a new socioeconomic platform must be adopted, one built on an equal distribution of wealth, investment in human welfare rather than tycoons, and the equality of all human beings between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. If we embrace the humane conception and abandon nationalist isolation, the road to a diverse society, in which the Palestinians become equal citizens, will give democracy its full meaning.
Alongside this, it seems that slowly and inadvertently, the Israeli economy is moving in a better direction: green energy companies are coming to the fore, together with green public transportation and electric autonomous vehicles. Telemedicine and distance learning are developing. And an understanding is growing that health has economic value, and that basic income for all is a necessity, as demonstrated by the financial grants to the unemployed and the victims of COVID-19. All of these prove that life is stronger than ideology.
Moreover, the recent unholy alliance between Israel’s Islamic Movement and Netanyahu has broken the formula on which Netanyahu repeatedly rode to the prime ministry. The slogan “Bibi or Tibi” is giving way to “Bibi or Gidi” (Gideon Saar). Bibi has discovered that the Islamic movement is no different in its behavior from that of the ultraorthodox Agudat Israel party, for it is not ideology that matters, but moneyology. Netanyahu has begun to understand what the Left is afraid to say, that without Arabs there is no majority to form a government, while the Islamic Movement has realized that 4 seats can achieve more than 15 if one leaves the position of eternal opposition and enters the political arena.
In light of all this, the Da’am Party calls on Palestinians and Israelis to adopt an “Israeli- Palestinian Green New Deal”, to take advantage of the momentum created by the US elections, the fall of Trump and populism. The foolish attempts to revive the Labor Party, Meretz’s adherence to its familiar inertia while relying on its loyal voters, and the attempt by the parties comprising the (Arab) Joint List to fortify themselves behind the walls of nationalism, all leave Israeli society torn. The Israeli Right has nothing to sell, it will not adopt a green agenda and certainly not an egalitarian one. It will continue to do what it knows best: take advantage of the division between Jews and Arabs to perpetuate its rule, leading to stagnation and degeneration.
The Da’am Party seeks to create a large democratic tent, where there will be room for every Jewish or Arab citizen, male or female, straight or LGBTQ, willing to build a new society. We support two primary goals: to save the planet from a climate catastrophe and to end the bloody conflict with the Palestinians on the basis of a single democratic and egalitarian state between the sea and Jordan River. This platform is open to all who want to support the principles of democracy and the rule of law as a basis for coexistence between the two peoples.