JVL Introduction

In Israel’s outgoing parliament, the Labor Party holds 19  seats as part of the Zionist Union; and Meretz, the progressive left Zionist party, a further 5 out of a total of 120.

Gideon Levy presents a searing indictment of their recent performance: “They both needed to have proposed an alternative and opposition to, above all, the occupation. Labor has not done it at all and Meretz has not done it enough. Both fled from the crucial issues and took refuge in their comfort zones..”

We also include extracts of a recent evaluation of Avi Gabbay as Labor leader from the Israel Policy Exchange. It isn’t flattering: “Gabbay, like a number of other figures competing for left and center votes, seems to have come under similar faulty conclusions that broadening one’s appeal means pandering to the right, and has thus given himself carte blanche to discard Labor’s traditional mission as the flagship party of the left.”

This is the party of which the Jewish Labour Movement in Britain says: “[We] organise[s] within the World Zionist Organisation alongside our sister party in Israel, Havodah – the Israeli Labor Party.” We can find no comment from them on its current trajectory.


Labor Leader Avi Gabbay: Photo: Israel Policy Exchange

Crime and punishment for Israel’s left wing

There are very few cases in Israeli politics in which justice is meted out as it is to the Labor and Meretz parties, which have abused their office and are now being punished

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz
3rd February 2019


The Zionist left-wing’s lament: Two of its parties could very well not pass the vote threshold for entering the next Knesset. Labor, which founded the state, and Meretz, which tried to provide its moral justification, could well be erased. At least one opinion poll already forecasts this.

It is a time of emergency: Ravit Hecht calls on leftists to vote for them (“Lefists, Don’t Jump Ship,” February 1). Nitzan Horowitz calls on them to unite (in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition), and no one asks: Why? What happened?

Don’t worry: They probably won’t disappear.

Keep worrying: They are dying.

There are very few cases in Israeli politics in which justice is meted out as it is to these two parties which have abused their office and are now being punished. Given the way they have acted over the past 20 years, they deserve to disappear. This is crime and punishment. They are the only ones guilty for their demise.

Their voters, the Zionist leftists, may very well now rush in droves to vote for Benny Gantz, and receive Moshe Ya’alon, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser – and not feel anything. For a long time, they have been voting for the right or nebulousness. Now they will be punished.

Labor and Meretz will be punished because they have lost their way. In their twilight years they have made their hatred for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into their only agenda, in particular Labor. So, the party’s voters will say that if the supreme goal is to remove Netanyahu, it would be better to vote for Gantz. He is the only one who can get rid of Netanyahu, so why beat around the bush. When removing Netanyahu is the only issue, then Hosen Le’Yisrael is the only answer.

But the demise did not begin with the hatred of Netanyahu. It started when the parties decided to blur (Labor) or water down (Meretz) their positions and betray their mission.

They both needed to have proposed an alternative and opposition to, above all, the occupation. Labor has not done it at all and Meretz has not done it enough. Both fled from the crucial issues and took refuge in their comfort zones.

Their leaderships thought that this was the way to increase support. Now they have realized that the opposite was true: When you blur your positions, water them down or run from clear and brave positions – you lose everything. The end has come for you, dear Labor and Meretz. It is doubtful that we even need to cry over their expected demise.

It is not a coincidence that the watershed moment of the beginning of their end came in the 2003 election. For the first time, Labor dropped to under 20 Knesset seats, and Meretz lost half of its strength, ending up with five MKs. The weakness of one of them should have strengthened the other, but both collapsed.

What happened? They abandoned their crucial struggle, replaced courageous leadership with less brave leaders, obscured their positions and began to hemorrhage.

Above all this hovered the cloud of their disgraceful and cowardly flight from the main issue – we will say it again and again – the fight against the occupation. Both fled from it like from a fire. It’s not an electoral advantage said the experts and pollsters, so we will leave it alone.

In 2003, after the failure at Camp David and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the flags were taken down and folded. Labor, which never acted seriously to end the occupation, and Meretz that fought it until its strength wore out, raised white flags instead.

Labor crawled, gawked, stuttered and stayed silent. What was the party’s position on the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the wars in Gaza, negotiations with Hamas, the defense budget or the continuation of the settlements? It didn’t have any.

Meretz preferred other banners, more convenient ones. LGBT rights, the environment and the holocaust against animals are very important issues to battle for, but not as a replacement for the most important struggle.

A hierarchy exists for struggles and Meretz forgot this. With the exception of two MKs, Zehava Galon who left and Mossi Raz, and two candidates, Gaby Lasky and Yariv Oppenheimer, no one else among the leadership has made the battle against the occupation their first priority. And if this were not enough, the two parties have no real programs.

At a time when the two-state solution has become irrelevant, no one has arisen in either party to propose an alternative. So, they no longer have a right to exist. Maybe a more appropriate alternative will rise on their ruins.

For almost 20 years Israel has been left without any real fight against the occupation. Now it turns out that this is not only immoral, but also doesn’t pay.

__________________

Leadership Lessons for Labor

Guy Frenkel, Israel Policy exchange
10th January 2019


Gabbay, who only entered the scene in 2015, was neither a Laborite, nor was he more broadly associated with a party on the left. Rather, he helped form Kulanu, an offshoot of Likud run by a disgruntled Moshe Kahlon tired of Netanyahu’s overbearing tendencies. Perhaps even more glaring, Gabbay’s background appeared devoid of anything remotely relevant to politics or public service. He was and remains to many an unknown political quantity—but he had proven himself a successful businessman, serving as CEO for telecommunications company Bezeq for a number of years. His victory in the Labor primaries in 2017 against then-leader Yitzhak Herzog after having joined the party only seven months prior (and after a short stint as Environment Minister) was surprising, less because of Herzog’s spent popularity and more because of the decision to elect a virtual unknown. This is in stark contrast to a figure like Donald Trump, who had been prominent in the United States for years, gladly exploiting any and all opportunities to plant himself in the public’s view. However, despite these differences, both figures were able to parlay their business acumen to convince voters that these skill sets could in fact be transferred over with little difficulty. Furthermore, they provided a breath of fresh air to voters tired of ‘professional’ politicians who had, for the last time, failed to deliver on their promises, and in the case of Labor, failed to return the party to power.

Yet the situation in the United States might once again serve as a cautionary tale of proving that success in one field cannot simply be emulated in another, good intentions notwithstanding. To be fair, Gabbay’s behavior can hardly be compared to that of the often-sheer recklessness of Trump—not to mention his place in the opposition, where he could do far less damage. But since taking control of Labor, the party’s approval (after rebounding slightly following Herzog’s departure) has dropped precipitously, with recent polls pointing to single digits for April’s coming elections. Even with the knowledge that three months remain until then, optimistic scenarios seem elusive for Gabbay, who trails rivals like Lapid and former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz by many mandates in opinion polling.

Some of this has to do with Gabbay’s apparent lack of charisma, and his inability to cut an impressive figure capable of taking on Netanyahu. Nonetheless, personality cannot be solely to blame. Gabbay, like a number of other figures competing for left and center votes, seems to have come under similar faulty conclusions that broadening one’s appeal means pandering to the right, and has thus given himself carte blanche to discard Labor’s traditional mission as the flagship party of the left. Such iconoclastic actions likely made sense to someone like Gabbay; after all, his unexpected victory may have signaled to him that voters were open to new ideas regarding Labor’s direction.

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