Goodbye Gabbai—How the Israeli Left was Lost
As predicted yesterday, in my piece on the Israeli elections (one didn’t need to be a prophet to see this coming!), Labor leader Avi Gabai is already wearing a blindfold, has eaten his last meal, and is now smoking a cigarette—as the guns are being loaded. Yes, his friends are calling for his execution.
The historic left-wing party, that led the nation until Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in the late 70s, is on the verge of extinction. Why? There are two reasons. But, first, you have to understand: in Israel, left and right is all about security and peace. In the US, you can list two dozen differences between the left and right, but here, it is pretty much about where we prioritize peace vs. security in how we deal with Palestinians. There is also the issue of migrants, refugees and the cost of cottage cheese. But, mostly, it is security.
How the left got lost
There is no longer an Israeli left wing. Out of 120 seats, only 11 have gone to left-wing parties. This is due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Israelis have no faith that there is any hope of peace with Palestinians, even though the politically far-left does. Since we left Gaza in 2005, Hamas has been in power. They have no desire for peace. They have launched more than 100,000 rockets at Israel. Abbas has never seen a peace plan that was preferable to blowing up innocent Jewish people, and then naming city streets and squares after their murderers.
The other reason is that the labor party, the historic home for unions and socialists, can never stick with a leader for more than a couple of years. Since Rabin, they have had an astounding 11 leaders!
Shimon Peres 1995–1997
Ehud Barak 1997–2001
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer 2001–2002
Amram Mitzna 2002–2003
Shimon Peres 2003–2005
Amir Peretz 2005–2007
Ehud Barak 2007–2011
Michael Harish 2011 (acting)
Shelly Yachimovich 2011–2013
Isaac Herzog 2013–2017
Avi Gabbay 2017–present
Likud, on the other hand, has had two!
Benjamin Netanyahu 1996–1999, 2005-present
Ariel Sharon 2000-2005
Yesh Atid, formed in 2011, has had one leader, Yair Lapid. Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel our Home) has been led by Avigdor Lieberman since its inception in 1999.
The Labor party gives its leaders one shot to get it right, and, if they don’t, as in the case of 10 out of the last 11 (Ehud Barak in ‘99 before being ousted as PM for his recklessness in negotiations), they are replaced.
What they do not understand is that since Barak, there is simply no faith in the left to negotiate for peace. They have proven to be naive. Israel has given up land three times (so much for being imperialists!). Once to the Egyptians in ‘79, which resulted in a lasting peace deal. But the other two times, we gave up land—while getting nothing in return.
First, Barak left the 20-kilometer buffer zone in southern Lebanon, which kept Hezbollah out of Israel in May of 1999. As a result, Hezbollah moved 20 kilometers closer overnight, and hundreds of South Lebanese fighters and their families had to flee into Israel for their lives. It led to the 2006 war with Lebanon, which left approximately 1200 Lebanese and 165 Israelis dead. It was a disaster!
The other time, former Likud leader, Ariel Sharon, called for the removal of 10,000 Jews from Gaza. He had to leave Likud and birth the centrist Kadima party, just to carry it out. It, too, has been a failure, which has led to three wars with Hamas and countless rocket attacks. Why?
Olive Branch equals Weakness
In both cases, our leaders failed to understand that the terrorists see retreating for peace as weakness on our part and victory on their part, which emboldens them to more terror. So, while the whole world labels Netanyahu a racist (it did not help that he reached out to the marginal far right to ensure victory), Israelis, including our millennials, look to him for security.
“But, wait, Ron! Gantz’ Blue and White won 35 seats, the same as Bibi.” Yes, because Gantz did not run as a leftist (as the western media portrays him). This was not a race against left and right, but against status quo and change. Gantz ran as a center-right candidate, an alternative to Netanyahu, who will go before a grand jury soon for bribery. His entire campaign could have been summed up in one sentence, which had nothing to do with any policy difference from Likud: “I am not Bibi!”
And, still, the former general came up short.
So, I hope this helped you understand more about the death of the left. When you visit an Israeli cemetery, and see a gravestone with the words, “Here lies the historic Labor Party: 1948-2019”, you will know why.