This week, Israel’s general elections were Dead on Arrival. The autopsy wasn’t pretty; a gunshot wound to the head. To the left, liberal head. What started out as hope to replace the Netanyahu government, collapsed onto itself like a circus tent after all the animals had run out.
This is a time to admit that after almost four years since my return to Israel, I live in a bubble. What’s not to like about a bubble? So long as it continues to inflate, so long as the world beyond it looks soapy, clean; so long as the bubble rises in the mild wind, leaving all else behind – I can continue to live in a make-believe world.
The villages and the kibbutzim around my home supported the opposition overwhelmingly. The numbers were stacked in my favor, or so I thought. The neighbors I talk to, the friends I associate with – we all sing from the same music sheet. We wanted to replace the right-wing government. I threw my support behind Itzhak Hertzog, leader of the Zionist Camp party. His pedigree is without question: His grandfather was a respected rabbi, his father was the president of Israel. Hertzog had no skeletons in the closet. During the campaign he spoke for me: negotiate with the Arabs, advocate a two-state solution, one Jewish, one Arab, in an attempt to end the conflict. He promoted social programs and an accountable government. A speech therapist coached him on how to drop his squeaky voice. Political strategists helped him how to show more presence in front of the cameras.
The bubble continued to inflate.
Until Netanyahu put a needle to it. All came crashing the day after the elections when results were in. Overnight, Netanyahu’s numbers improved markedly and Hertzog’s sank.
What went wrong?
In two words: 1. Demographics 2. Hubris
In the U.S., for example, minorities will become the majority in 2040. In just 25 years from now, the white man’s supremacy will be a thing of the past. Hispanics, Asians, Blacks and other mixed races will outnumber whites. It’s unlikely the Republicans in the U.S. will seize the White House unless they will learn how to include Jorge, Jun, and Jerome in their political platform.
In Israel’s demographics, the left will not win unless it learns to include, or at least understand the mindset of the Sephardi Jews (originally from Arab-speaking countries), the disenfranchised blue-collar sector far away from Tel Aviv’s glitz, the Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and the orthodox. It’s a tall order. And now, days after the defeat, it’s not likely the left will win anytime soon. Unless things get a lot worse and the voting public will take a gamble on the alternative. Unless the left will drop its arrogance (mine included). At the ballot box, a minimum-wage factory worker from a hole-in-the-wall town is equal to a university dean in his/her ivory tower. For the left to think that they know better is naive. Its leaders need to roll up their sleeves, reach out to these marginalized groups, reinvent themselves.
The left has to change its language.
It’s not to say Netanyahu has done anything to help these groups. He hasn’t. He’s just a better demagogue, borrowing tactics from Ronald Reagan. Netanyahu is a great speaker; he doesn’t use dollar words like Hertzog when nickel words will do. In Israel, he gets to the largest common denominator, scares the shit out of people regarding Iran and Isis, then retires to his Prime Minister home and sips French wine. A true king.
See you in four years, Hertzog. In the meantime, go to the gym, lift weights, roughen your voice, roughen your beard, charm the ladies, and kick ass.
Israelis like to be kicked around. Even if they don’t know it.
Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.
He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com
or at BN.com