When the Right is Right
Bottles. This has been the topic of conversation in Israel over the past two weeks. Not Israel’s growing diplomatic isolation, the simmering violence in the West Bank, or social reform and the state of the economy. The media, and politicians alike, have been obsessed by the crucial issue of whether Mrs. Netanyahu did or did not pocket the deposits returned to her for recycling empty used bottles.
The discourse around the upcoming elections has been tainted by this obsession with the prime minister’s wife, and has diverted the attention of the public from real topics that need to be hashed out by the contenders before the elections take place in mid March. The right is correct in criticizing the repeated attacks against Mrs. Netanyahu. Not because they are baseless (indeed there seems to be something awfully wrong in the way the Israeli royal family and household conducts itself behind closed doors), but because it has nothing to do with the important crossroads that Israel is about to traverse.
The left made a serious error by going with the flow, and allowing the discussion to center around Mrs. Netanyahu. Not only did this decision backlash by strengthening the resolve of Likud voters to stick with Netanyahu, it also disappointed many voters on the left, including yours truly, hoping for a change based on a real and proper alternative posed by the new Zionist Camp party. Instead of attacking Netanyahu on core issues in which he failed miserably, such as Israel’s diplomatic isolation and the relationship with the U.S. administration, Herzog and Livni were only too happy to jump on the wagon and join the trivial and totally unimportant debate on bottles.
The good news for us lefties is that there is still a chance to correct this. Trust Bibi to provide us all with the opportunity to realize it would be a mistake to give him another chance at the helm. The latest fiasco is the growing rift with the Obama administration over, well – everything, and Netanyahu’s insistence to face the Congress and talk about Iran.
From the start, and I’m talking about a month ago, when word of the planned speech first came out, there were few in Israel who believed this speech was actually about Iran. The image of Netanyahu receiving a standing ovation from a full Congress, including the Vice-President of the U.S., was indeed impressive. To repeat this, only a month before the elections, would be a huge boost for Netanyahu’s campaign. Of that, there is no doubt.
Where things stand right now, Netanyahu would be a fool to go through with the original plan. The rising criticism against this move, in Israel, but more importantly – in the U.S. including , the powerful Jewish lobby in Washington, are not helping Israel’s already frail relationship with the U.S.
Either way, the left has a good chance of attacking Netanyahu on a crucial topic for the future of this country, i.e. its relations with the U.S. From all the issues at hand, this must be at the top of that endless list of priorities. The damage wreaked by Netanyahu’s decisions – the involvement in American politics, the continued declarations on construction in the West bank, the humiliation of Secretary of State Kerry – to name just a few, must become a major topic of discussion.
Other obvious candidates for topics to be publicly debated are of course the stalemate in the negotiations with the Palestinians, the lost opportunities to form an alliance with the moderate forces in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, etc.), the rising cost of living and social reform, and changing the political system in Israel.
There are so many other topics that need to be put on the table instead of debating Mrs. Netanyahu’s disgusting behavior. If the left really wants to bring about change, to pose a real alternative to King Bibi and his gang of messianic crazies, it must prove to us that it has something serious to offer by principally addressing the pertinent topics mentioned above. Otherwise, please don’t waste our time.