Why do we love to hate? (israeli banality)

I’m not sure why Israelis do not like to love the left. Even during a period in which the country’s situation justifies belief in the formative values of the left, there is still an inexplicable suspicion of the left and of what it represents.

I believe that recent events in the global economy constitute a moratorium on the viewpoint that governments are, in effect, boards of directors that distribute the profits among the citizens. The cruel hyper-capitalism that sanctified capital and the creation of capital has turned out to be a destroyer of society. And here in Israel, three months before the elections, there is almost no discussion among the parties about changes that should be adopted in our economic worldview, or about the image of society in an era of such large gaps between citizens.

In the months that have passed since I entered the political playing field, I have met people who are worried about those same gaps, which have placed Israel in the disgraceful position of being one of world’s leaders in terms of income inequality. To my surprise, there has been almost no mention of settlements and outposts and hilltop youth and Hebron and East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and the future of the territories. The discussion about the future of the Land of Israel seems to have ended among the general public and a decision has even been made: With the exception of a few politicians on the right and the extreme right, who are still in search of yesterday, the public is already willing to enter the operating room where the “Siamese twins” – the two interconnected parts of the Land of Israel – will be separated.

I noticed a similar attempt to go on with the same old daily routine in the 2006 elections. At the time almost no diplomatic or security-related promises were heard. The parties aimed a powerful spotlight at social problems, poverty, education and health. For the first time since Benjamin Netanyahu accelerated the disintegration of the welfare state, there were signs of a trend to repair the economy of “every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” Only the conflict with Hamas and the futile second war in Lebanon shattered the promises and the expectations. Israel went back to being a country at war.

In my wanderings around the country, the words “left” and “right” have barely been heard, as though they symbolize a distant past that everyone wants to forget. People spoke easily about a transition from the Likud to Kadima, or from Labor to the Likud as though they were changing socks. The passion of debate, which dates back to the pre-state period, has evaporated, and there is absolutely no hint of betrayal in the words of those who are transferring from one camp to another. “I have always voted Labor, but last time I voted Kadima,” said someone during one of the meetings, adding: “This time I’m deliberating between Meretz and Likud. I may wait a little longer, because maybe a new party will be formed before the elections.”

This is the big moment for advocates of social democracy. In the world at large they are called “left,” because they posit man and his welfare above all. In the last elections the Republican party chose the slogan “Country First” and it crashed resoundingly. In Europe the prevailing viewpoint is that one should earn like capitalists and distribute the wealth like socialists.

Political Israel has yet to adapt itself to the earthquake that has taken place following the fall of the economy of avarice and speculation. In order to find a place in the public consciousness once again, the economic left in Israel must raise the values of solidarity above those of unbridled competition. With the collapse of the debate over the territories, the socioeconomic path is the fairest and most humane for that left to follow.

A former senior journalist at Haaretz, the writer is running for a slot on the Labor Party slate for the Knesset elections.

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