The Decline and Fall of the Israeli Left

May 21 2020
About Neil

Neil Rogachevsky teaches at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and is the author of Israel’s Declaration of Independence: The History and Political Theory of the Nation’s Founding Moment, published in 2023 by Cambridge University Press.

From 1948 until 1977, the Labor party led every one of the Jewish state’s governments. The most recent election, however, has left Labor on its deathbed, having failed in several consecutive elections to unseat the now-dominant Likud. Instead it is the former IDF chief Benny Gantz who—leading an array of centrist parties—has established himself as Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival. Neil Rogachevsky writes:

[A]lthough the (now broken) bloc of parties that Gantz had assembled, called Blue and White, was sometimes described as centrist or even center-left in the foreign media, Gantz’s opposition to Netanyahu has been anything but ideological. Indeed, anywhere else in the world, Blue and White would have been thought of as a classic right-wing party. Gantz’s platform consisted of calling Netanyahu “soft” for insufficiently bombarding or invading Gaza; he enlisted two other generals of the same persuasion as running mates to show he was serious. At campaign rallies and on TV, Blue and White leaders literally and figuratively draped themselves in Israel’s blue and white flag. The not particularly eloquent generals repeated the slogan “Israel before everything” and offered little else.

Gantz defended the “independent judiciary” and public services: he was an advocate of the civil servants and, so to speak, Israel’s “deep state” of prosecutors, judges, military officers, etc. His lone social issue was the country’s comparatively impressive healthcare system, which, because of population growth, has shown signs of strain in recent years; Gantz wanted to spend a bit more money on it.

But there was no class warfare at all in the Blue and White campaign. Most surprisingly, the attacks on the industrial families that control Israel’s major enterprises—the typical targets of left-of-center reformists—were nowhere to be heard. Instead, Gantz castigated Netanyahu for alleged (and likely exaggerated) corruption. He mainly sought to benefit from voters’ growing dislike of Netanyahu or at least fatigue—Netanyahu has now been prime minister for eleven years straight, after an earlier stint in that office from 1996 to 1999.

The single most important factor in the decline of Israel’s Labor party (as opposed, perhaps, to the labor movement) was the failure of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.

Yet, Rogachevsky goes on to argue, the eventual collapse of Labor Zionism was in some ways an inevitable consequence of the movement from its very beginning.

Read more at American Affairs

More about: Benny Gantz, David Ben-Gurion, Israeli history, Labor Party, Labor Zionism


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict