One of my many right-wing friends repeatedly says to me: “I don’t understand why you want to change our government – don’t you enjoy the economic prosperity and stability, and does anyone prevent you from expressing your leftist views?”
My standard answer is that indeed, on the macro level the Israeli economy is strong and stable, and my personal economic situation is satisfactory – though not necessarily thanks to the government’s economic policy. I worked hard most of my life, have never lived beyond my means and was raised not to take from the state anything beyond what is my right by law (for example, a standard social security old age allowance). So as far as I am concerned, “it isn’t the economy, stupid.”
And yes, freedom of expression is still respected in this country (thank heavens), though most members of this government believe that views like mine are based on “self-hatred,” anti-Zionism, financing from the New Israel Fund, or worse. The fact that I am a Zionist who wants this state to be the state of all its citizens, and all Jews (including those who are not Orthodox, and/or racist xenophobes, and/or Arab-hating chauvinists), who wish to live in a predominantly Jewish state is held in contempt.
In fact, the main reason (though certainly not the only one) I believe it is time that our current government should be replaced is because I have deep issues with its perception of what the Jewish state should be and in which direction it should go, both on the basis of moral principles and on the basis of realpolitik.
To go back to the economic issue, the neo-liberal principles that dictate the economic policies of this government have undoubtedly been successful on the macro level, and have most benefited a handful of tycoons (especially those who are also Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal friends). However, they have been catastrophic on the micro level and with regard to the welfare state, especially when it comes to the country’s Arab population, the (largely Mizrahi) periphery population (in the Galilee and the Negev), elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopians, the physically and mentally handicapped, etc.
Indeed, very little of this affects me directly (among the few exceptions is the fact that I am increasingly purchasing private health services that I should have received for free from my health fund), but one’s political positions are not necessarily affected only by one’s personal situation.
When it comes to the issue of two states or one, we are in a situation in which the majority of the government (perhaps even the whole government) opposes the idea on principle, and supports either the idea of a single state east of the River Jordan, in which the Jews are predominant, or some sort of “status quo” solution, which is another way of saying no solution.
This is the first government in Israel’s history that rejects the two-state solution, “lock, stock and barrel.” I, and many others (some say a majority), believe that even though the two-state solution is far from ideal and will result in serious security problems for the Jewish state, it is preferable to the one-state solution under Jewish rule (a true Jewish-Palestinian binational solution is not in the cards), which will end even a semblance of democracy in the country, besides ensuring that the recent Israeli-Gaza skirmish and the violent Arab-Jewish demonstration in Haifa that followed will look in retrospect like manifestations of friendly camaraderie.
As a footnote, it should be noted that all of Netanyahu’s previous governments included supporters of the two-state solution.
Of course, this issue is not just about hypothetical ideas, but directly affects Israel’s everyday policies in the territories – another major issue of contention.
The next issue concerns Israel’s democracy. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked claimed several weeks ago that the Israeli democracy is strong and kicking. However, as an intelligent woman she must know that if she manages to implement her full legislative agenda as it is manifested in her proposal for Basic Law: Legislation, in addition to other legislation designed to weaken the Supreme Court and other gatekeepers in the Israeli system, and constrict the activities of human rights organizations in Israel, Israeli democracy will be seriously constrained and stifled. The fact that the conduct of our prime minister, who is under police investigation on fairly serious charges, is becoming increasingly megalomaniacal, with imperial mannerisms, doesn’t bode well for our democracy either.
Then there is the unbridled incitement against various communities and groups in Israeli society, and the exclusion of many from what should be part of the general public domain. The prime minister managed to turn both the official Independence Day ceremony and the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem into events from which many felt totally excluded and alienated.
Even Eurovision is in danger of being hijacked for purely Likud political purposes, and if Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev continue to try to turn it into a political event which glorifies united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, contrary to the principles on which the European song contest is based, not only will the joyous event have to be held in Tel Aviv rather than Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, but it might fail to take place in Israel altogether. In other words, a classic case of “cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face.”
Finally there is the basic fact that for any single party or leader to remain in power for too long is both corrupting and destructive. Just as it was important that the Labor Party be ousted back in 1977 after too many years in power, today the same applies to the Likud, and especially to its leader Netanyahu, who in addition to inheriting “the State is I” complex is becoming increasingly haughty and cocky.
None of this goes to say that Netanyahu is not an extremely bright and talented man, who is playing brilliantly in the current illiberal and rather confused Trump- and Putin-led world. Whether in the final reckoning this will lead to a fulfillment of Israel’s main goals (which we all support): a denuclearized Iran, which is excluded from Syria, detached from various despicable Muslim terrorist organizations, and willing to stop threatening Israel’s existence; and some sort of long-term, if not permanent Middle East settlement – time will tell.
Does this balance everything else? Many believe it does and that with all his foibles Netanyahu is currently irreplaceable. I believe it doesn’t and that everyone is replaceable. In the final reckoning the issue will be decided by the voters, or by the State Attorney’s Office.