Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Haaretz Editorial: Soul-searching on the left

12 February 2009

Haaretz Editorial, Haaretz – 12 Feb 2009

Despite the lack of clarity about the next government, one thing is becoming painfully clear – the entire left-wing bloc has suffered a crushing defeat in the election.

The Labor Party, whose founders achieved great things in the state’s early days, has dwindled to 13 Knesset seats and is now the fourth largest party after Yisrael Beiteinu. Meretz, which had hoped to thrive in its new incarnation, was dealt a bitter disappointment, cut down to a mere three Knesset seats – barely enough to get into parliament.

This sweeping downfall can of course be explained by the support of many left-wing voters for Tzipi Livni, to halt Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. This explanation should not be dismissed out of hand, but it is not the only reason. Both left-wing parties have suffered a crisis and their leaders – Ehud Barak and Haim Oron – failed to read the deep changes in the Israeli political map and led their parties to a dead-end.

Labor’s identity crisis has been known for many years. Ever since Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, the differences between this party and Likud have been indiscernible. Twice its leaders (Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz) made an ideological move for peace and social change, and twice party members refused to back their chief and let him fail. This time around Barak led the Labor Party to the election on the flimsy argument that he was capable and the most qualified to “answer the phone at 3 A.M.”

Meretz has other problems. From the moment it was formed, as a merger of Mapam, the Citizens’ Rights Movement and Shinui, its ideology has been dissolving. Its gifted, inspired and courageous leaders have retired, leaving the party without a leadership to keep it from sinking.

Oron was wrong when he made Yossi Beilin Meretz’s previous leader. Beilin symbolized a peace policy, but alienated the party from large interest groups. Oron erred again when he presented himself in the election campaign as a man “everybody loves.”

Both parties failed to provide a convincing alternative. They must rehabilitate and rebuild themselves in the opposition as a serious left alternative to the right-wing bloc that won the election. Their leaders are responsible for this failure – Barak and Oron must move aside.

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