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

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy