The last time that Israel had a prime minister from the Labor Party was over 20 years ago. Most military recruits were not even born or were in diapers the last time a member of the leftist socialist movement that had ruled the country in a virtually unbroken life of succession for a generation from Ben-Gurion to Rabin last headed the country.
The news is even worse now, with Labor, which once dominated the Knesset legislature, receiving only four seats in last week’s election, making it the smallest party, below the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ra’am and the Arab Communist Hadash-Ta’al, not to mention the Jewish religious parties and the parties of Middle Eastern and Russian immigrants.
The last time this happened, Caroline Glick’s Latma, with hilarious cruelty, mocked the Labor Party for having more letters in its name than Knesset seats. “Hello, I would like to request a taxi for the entire Labor Party.” “Don’t bury us, there aren’t enough of us for a minyan.”
As badly as Labor did, Meretz performed even worse, failing to meet the legislative threshold. For the first time in a generation, the radical leftist party won’t even make it into the Knesset.
The parties of the Jewish left, if you can even call them that, are down to four out of 120 seats.
The Israeli left has become unelectable, so it disguises itself as a rotating series of fake centrist parties, the latest of which is Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, whose function is to trick Israelis who would never vote for Labor or Meretz into voting for the left. And Yesh Atid picked up 24 Knesset seats.
Yair Lapid, a television celebrity and the son of a famous father, is Israel’s Justin Trudeau, a convenient front for the same old gang to run things while he mugs for the camera. He’s one of a line of retired generals and public figures fronting fake third parties who hold office only long enough for the public to realize that they didn’t vote for Labor but got it anyway.
The electoral decline and fall of the Israeli left was caused by two national revelations. The first was that Netanyahu’s free-market economic policies, while not perfect, worked far better than Labor’s socialist monopolies, and the second was that Labor’s signature policy, cutting a deal with the PLO, was a murderous failure that threatened Israeli lives and the country on an unprecedented scale.
But the paradox of the Israeli left is that it has virtually no electoral power, yet nearly unlimited political power. There may not have been a Labor prime minister since 2001, but the left still controls the machinery of officialdom, from local bureaucrats to Supreme Court justices. Even while the media declares that the latest right-wing bogeyman is a “threat to democracy,” it is the civil servants, the prosecutors, judges, brass and administrators who actually run most things.
And who are the real threats to democracy.
There’s a reason Democrats often describe the Israeli Supreme Court, with its unlimited power of judicial review and ability to override government decisions on everything from the macro to the micro, from where people can live to who should receive the Israeli Prize, as their model.
Beyond the upper echelons of the judiciary, prosecutors openly collaborate with the media and leftist activists to indict, prosecute and remove conservative, patriotic and Zionist elected officials. It was a bunch of these groundless prosecutions that forced Netanyahu out of office. To understand the Kafkaesque absurdity of the prosecutorial campaign against Netanyahu, it’s enough to mention that his wife was investigated over recycling bottle deposits.
To make sense of what’s going on though, you have to understand Israeli demographics.
While immigration moves the United States leftward, it moves Israel rightward. The conservative Likud’s base of support comes from the Middle Eastern Jewish immigrants who fled Muslim rule. The Russian immigrants, French and even Americans who move to Israel are not universally conservative, but tend to want governments that will protect them from Islamic terrorists.
The media is howling over the newfound influence of Itamar Ben-Gvir, described as “far-right,” a “hateful extremist” and a “supremacist.” The Biden administration and Democrats have warned that they will have nothing to do with him and that Israel will alienate the United States.
What they don’t mention is that he’s the son of Iraqi Jewish immigrants.
Israel’s left derives the majority of its support from the upper class elites of Tel Aviv, who were part of the old socialist establishment. Israel’s right leans heavily on the Middle Eastern and Russian immigrants whom they treated like dirt. They want a strong country and a weak bureaucracy. The old establishment left wants a strong bureaucracy and a weak country.
Talk to members of that old establishment and you find that they are a small, incestuous group. Israel is a small country, but in those circles, everyone really does know everyone else—they went to school with them, served in the army with them, or lived next door to them. They feel that their country, with its cafes and kibbutzim, red flags and membership in an international socialist order, and the more intangible cultural elements, was stolen from them by these disgusting new arrivals.
They complain about the language, the manners, the religion, the superstition and the ugliness of the Haredim, the Middle Eastern and Russian Jews. Give them a few drinks and the rhetoric can turn truly ugly, with stories of beating the religious and mistreating immigrants. It was in this vein that Yigal Tumarkin, an artist and co-founder of the anti-war Peace Now, wrote, “when I see Orthodox Jews, I understand the Nazis,” and “my true contribution would be if I grabbed a submachine gun, instead of a pen and pencil, and killed them.”
Tumarkin spoke for quite a few members of the old establishment who still have their cafes, but feel like they lost their country. Though they can’t win elections (for long), they control the machinery of power. And paradoxically they see themselves as underdogs still fighting the “right” and the influx of immigrants who don’t know their place and have ruined everything.
In a small country, their hateful views are no secret. It’s why they can’t win elections.
Israel’s politics are a struggle between an emerging multicultural conservative majority and a supremacist European leftist minority holding on to power. It’s a mirror image of how American liberals see our politics, and yet when given a choice, they side with the Israeli European minority.
In this struggle, the media, both theirs and ours, depicts coalitions of Middle Eastern Jewish refugees, Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews as if they were all interchangeable “right-wing extremists,” while painting a leftist fringe that consists of upper class elites who all know each other and look like each other as the liberal tolerant heroes of tomorrow.
That reveals as much about our media and political elites as it does about the Israeli left.
Democrats and the media never actually ask why Israelis seem to insist on electing so many conservatives and so few lefties, or why Netanyahu broke Ben-Gurion’s record for the longest consecutive term in office. Instead, we’re told that Israelis are supremacists and bigots. It’s a convenient projection by the real supremacists and bigots who are smearing Israel.
Why did the Israeli right win while the left lost? For reasons the media won’t discuss. Decades of Islamic terror, failed socialist politics, corrupt monopolies, an abusive bureaucracy and outright bigotry and discrimination of the ugliest kind somehow never come up in these conversations, even though the majority of Israelis are painfully acquainted with all of them.
The left lost badly in Israel. Our left is terrified that they’re about to lose just as badly here.