The Silent Death of the Israeli Left

April 28 2020

From Israel’s creation in 1948 until Menachem Begin’s 1977 electoral victory, the Jewish state was governed by the Labor party in its various incarnations, and its leaders thought it would ever be thus. For several decades thereafter, it remained one of two dominant parties. The most recent election, however, heralded Labor’s final collapse into irrelevance. Matti Friedman reflects:

When the dust settled after Israel’s last national election in February, the Labor party had a mere three members of Knesset out of 120. But that’s rosy compared to what it just got in a poll on April 13: zero. Just like that, the party of David Ben-Gurion and Yitzḥak Rabin no longer mattered. Because Israeli news coverage has been preoccupied with pandemic panic, almost no one noticed.

As Friedman notes, Labor’s end has been a long time coming:

By [1972], voters from the actual Jewish working class, who tended to come from Islamic countries like Morocco, had been alienated by Labor and were showing a clear preference for the right. The next year, 1973, came the earthquake of the Yom Kippur War, a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria which killed more than 2,500 Israeli soldiers. That led to fury at the Labor elite over its failure to adequately prepare the army, and four years later came the party’s first election loss to Likud after three uninterrupted decades in power. After that war, the old collective style lost ground to individualism. Israeli songs stopped using the socialist accordion and the word “we.”

But the kibbutz, [an institution central to Labor’s vision], like the country it helped found, is still very much alive, even if neither ended up following the path [their founders expected of them]. After the members [of Kibbutz Ma’aleh ha-Ḥamishah] dropped socialism, 100 families moved into the new neighborhood where the orchards used to be. Most were kibbutz kids who’d left. . . . They were drawn not by ideology but by life in a place that’s beautiful and good for commuters, near the highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The population has more than doubled in fifteen years. The ideas went away, but the kindergartens are full.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Israeli politics, Kibbutz movement, Labor Party, Labor Zionism


Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada