The Israeli Labor party has played an important role in shaping Israeli history and identity in the modern State’s young 65 year history. Formed in 1968 from a number of other pre-existing parties, the Labor party has for the most part represented an economic-social alternative to the type of neo-liberal policies exemplified by Benjamin Netanyahu. A focus on a more Zionist-socialist approach and social welfare is what set the party apart from Likud.
The unprecedented unification deal made by Labor leader Yitzchak Herzog with Hatnua chairperson Tzipi Livni should in fact outrage traditional Labor voters and the fact that it does not—according to recent polls—demonstrates a lack of understanding and information about what this deal truly means and who and what they would actually be voting for. It must be said that prior to the deal polls indicated that Livni’s Hatnua party was unlikely to pass the voting threshold and enter the next Knesset.
The 56 year old Livni, formerly of the Mossad, represents perhaps the most drastic shift in ideology of all politicians and has demonstrated time and again that her only goal is to become Prime Minister at any cost. Her ideology and political platform, as well as her political maneuvering and tactics, is indicative of an egocentric approach in her desire for the top position in the country. In the 2013 elections Livni’s Hatnua party received 8 seats in the Knesset and her former Kadima party received only 2. Prime Minister Netanyahu brought Hatnua into the coalition and issued Livni with the Justice Ministry portfolio and made her chief negotiator with the PA, where she was given virtual free reign to pursue her own approach and policy.
Livni worked tirelessly in conjunction with US Secretary of State John Kerry and his extensive shuttle diplomacy. The only stumbling block was Mahmoud Abbas and the PA’s unwillingness to ‘compromise’ on any of their demands. Even when he was unwilling, and the Arabs themselves turned up the heat with what many dubbed the ‘third intifada’ or the ‘silent intifada’, Livni did everything possible to keep negotiations alive. There is little that the Palestinians could do to change Livni’s ‘two states at any cost’ policy, perhaps anything short of Abbas personally alienating Livni by hurting or humiliating her.
Recently Livni approached Kerry with a peculiar favor, requesting that the US veto the PA’s push in the UN for recognition of a State, and condemnation in Israel. This would seem befitting of a former foreign minister, justice minister, and close colleague of Kerry. But her intentions were anything but the wellbeing of the state. Livni rationalized to Kerry that should the PA be successful in the UN, the Israeli Nationalist bloc would be strengthened as a result of a hardening Israeli attitude in response. Therefore, Livni requested, that Kerry should block the PA’s move in order to strengthen Livni in the upcoming Israeli elections set for March 2015.
The significance of this action should not be overlooked. Livni is using the PA’s attack on Israel in the international arena, and her relationship with the US administration—which dislikes Netanyahu—in order to maneuver herself into the PM’s seat.
A leadership that includes Livni will be doomed to a singular focus on negotiations with the PA and the relinquishing of Jewish ancestral and indigenous lands that come with it. The fact that this paradigm has been unsuccessful for more than 60 years is irrelevant. Livni forced the most recent government into such a singular focus which drained the resources and attentions away from the type of social and economic issues that Labor supposedly represents. Netanyahu has admitted that socio-economic issues were forced to the wayside as a result of an over-focus on these negotiations; which were directed by Livni.
A Labor led government will be so focused on pushing through a deal with the PA that all other issues of importance will remain unattended to. The Israeli media has been giving much space to issues of poverty and economics in the run up to the elections, something which has been seen by many as an attempt to support Labor’s campaign. Labor has also recently been accused of using American polling firms to produce inaccurate images of the strength of the party.
Historically no Israeli government has been able to properly balance a full-steam approach to the ‘two state solution’ and socio-economic issues. Only those governments who were not entangled in non-stop negotiations have effectively contributed to socio-economic issues in a positive way. With Livni at the helm the Labor party can no longer represent an alternative socio-economic-welfare platform, even though it professes to. It’s obsessive focus with pushing through a two state solution at any cost will leave it depleted of the energies, finances, and combined resources needed to tackle the issues it claims to be focussing on.
Labor is also unable to explain how it will fund its proposed socio-economic reforms whilst at the same time earmarking 100 years worth of budget for the forcible removal of hundreds of thousands of Jews from their ancestral and indigenous lands in Judea and Samaria. The sheer economics and logistics involved in such a move would bankrupt the country and divert significant resources. It would be impossible to improve the socio-economic situation and in fact the financial woes would be drastically exasperated by the creation of a ‘Palestinian’ State in Judea and Samaria.
Israelis who may be inclined to vote The New Labor Party should be aware, ideology aside, of how a future under Livni’s leadership will affect them in every day life:
- The North-South Highway 6 will become the rock throwing capital of the world. Already it has been the scene of attacks but as the new border it would slowly fall into disuse.
- Around Jerusalem, especially on the outskirts of the city in places like the Har Hotzvim Technology Park, which is home to a large Intel facility, traffic will become impassible. Already traffic in these areas is backed up but with the closing of major roads and redirecting of major routes employees and stakeholders can expect at least an extra hour per day in traffic.
- Israelis and tourists alike will find Jerusalem one of the most inaccessible cities in the world. Netanyahu warned that Livni’s Jerusalem plans would lead to the need to ferry visitors to the Western Wall in armored personnel carriers. This is to not even mention the enormous budget which will be required to re-route, re-road, re-border and re-draw Jerusalem.
- Central cities like Kfar Saba and Netanya will become the new border towns and housing prices will skyrocket, especially in the border towns, including Rosh Ha’Ayin and Petach Tikva.
An interesting development within the Likud is that a movement has emerged among secular members which appears more in line with Labor’s traditional purpose and platform than The New Labor Party.
- There will also be significant changes to Israel’s character, both as a Jewish and democratic state, over both of which Livni professes to guard. The New Labor Party will attempt to stamp out all that is Jewish about the state, including laws ensuring Shabbat and holiday presence, laws of marriage, divorce, conversion etc. They will push through laws that secularize the state. All Israeli governments have proven their ability to go against the majority’s will and democratic norms with respect to one important issue or another. The social-cohesion gaps will worsen and religious and secular will be pushed further apart than ever.
When it comes to talk about establishing an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, no one on the Left can explain how there will not be a spillover into Israel-proper. There are millions of Palestinian ‘refugees’ livening in squalor camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere. When these Arabs pour into Judea and Samaria en-masse, where will they live? Where will they work? What will they eat? Furthermore, the majority of these Arabs’ grandparents are not from villages in Judea and Samaria. Like the ‘refugee camps’ in Judea and Samaria, these Arabs’ families hail mostly from places like Haifa, Akko, Yaffo, Jerusalem and other major areas in Israel-proper. They will not be happy in Qalqilya, Kfar Qassem and other border towns in which reside competing Arab tribes/clans who will not be so warm welcoming of millions of poor refugees to their presently prosperous towns. Especially when these ‘refugees’ will be mere miles away from their families’ towns, a spillover is inevitable. The frequency of Arab on Jewish violence will not be lessened.
In order to combat the new and increased security threats which will emerge as a result of a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, The New Labor Party will need to increase the security budget and will do so, with most of the new budget being used for new technologies; more walls, domes, shields and all kinds of devices. This will come at the expense of existing socio-economic projects and will also leave Israel more physically isolated than ever before.
There is a contradiction between economic improvement and the two state solution. Israel can no longer afford the latter from any point of view. Livni’s original reasoning for the need for this solution, namely a demographic threat or ‘time-bomb’ is no longer relevant as the birth trend has been reversed (perhaps ironically this has been thanks to the families of Judea and Samaria).
The only way to properly deal with Israel’s socio-economic woes is to abandon the ‘two state solution’ and redirect its extensive (and otherwise wasted) resources towards fixing Israel from the bottom up. A focus on security, especially in light of the ISIS threat and changing regimes (with Jordanian stability not looking good at this time) will enable Israel to focus on its growing domestic issues. It should be added that the push for a 2 state solution is also what has limited successive Israeli governments’ abilities and willingness to effectively deal with the security threats it has faced and continues to face. This is on account of a lack of direction.
Two more issues that voters need to be conscious of relate to the rotating leadership role that Livni and Herzog have invented, and the likely makeup of a coalition formed by their party. In the first instance a rotating leadership role which gives only 2 years to Herzog and Livni respectively means that neither will be able to carry out their policies. This is because the two have very different platforms and approaches, despite the appearance of ‘unity’. The rotating leadership was used by Rabin-Shamir and the two very different and contradicting policies of these two individuals made for a mostly ineffective and non-cohesive four years of policy.
With respect to the second issue, a Labor-led coalition will need to rely on the Arab parties in order to have the necessary majority for making a coalition. The Arab parties will be willing participants. Never mind that Ben Gurion stated often that this must never be. New bills raised by Arab parties will increase, as will their rate of adoption thanks to their being part of the coalition.
An interesting development within the Likud is that a movement has emerged among secular members which appears more in line with Labor’s traditional purpose and platform than The New Labor Party. This platform posits that there is no partner for negotiations on the side of the Arabs. With this acknowledgement the secular Likud movement wants to refocus the government’s attentions and resources to socio-economic, environmental, and human rights issues. This is a REAL Centrist approach which traditional Labor voters could and should examine closely as it is more likely to produce the type of socio-economic reform that they and the rest of the country are desperate for. Today’s young Likud members—like Sharen Haskel, no. 31 on the list--are more representative of traditional Labor policies than the New Labor Party is.
While the current elections campaign has been attempting to shift the focus to socio-economic issues, in truth these elections are fundamentally about whether the next government will or won't pursue purposeless negotiations towards the handing over of indigenous Jewish lands.
It is clear that in fact those unwilling to give up land will be able to best handle the socio-economic situation whilst those who pursue it do so at the expense of paying any attention to the country’s many other woes.