Photo: Tzvika Tishler
A.B. Yehoshua
Photo: Tzvika Tishler

Coalition needs strong Labor Party

We can't blame the Palestinians for Israel's economic mess

There is something positive about people changing their political affiliations from election to election. Party loyalty really isn't so important. Except on the extremes of the political map, ideological issues are not absolute, and if it is appropriate for political parties to change and adjust their ideologies to a changing reality, it is certainly alright for voters to do the same.


Poverty is a reality in Israel today, and there is no need to minimize the dimensions or causes. The gap between the classes is growing ever stronger and more frightening, and a new class has been created in Israel – the working poor, people who undertake backbreaking labor but don't earn enough to maintain even a minimum standard of living.


It does not matter that half of these poor, many of whom require assistance from soup kitchens, come from the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors. We all have a responsibility to bring the Orthodox population back into the work force, and to expand equality for Israeli Arabs, in order to enable them to earn a respectable living.


Our own fault


We created this poverty ourselves. We cannot blame it on Hamas or Mahmoud Abbas. No Palestinian behavior, past, present or future is responsible for the painful economic crisis or frightening inequality facing Israeli society.


To a large degree, we all "fell asleep at the wheel" while the Likud government, headed by Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert carried out its aggressive economic policy that brought about this tragic situation.


Labor Party ministers who participated in the government, headed by Shimon Peres, protested weakly, but they did nothing to prevent the crisis.


Growing threat


Most traditional Labor Party supporters are not the ones in dire economic straights today. Some even made benefited financially from Netanyahu's fiscal policy.


But growing poverty will eventually hurt the established classes. Rising violence, drug use, high school drop out rates and the rising feelings of alienation of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox will destroy the foundations of our society, and we will all pay the price.


For many years the Labor Party felt the pain and alienation of the lower classes towards its dovish policies on foreign policy. This alienation in turn hardened the party's heart with regard to their economic distress.


Back to roots


The election of Amir Peretz to head the Labor Party, and the new faces that have closed ranks around him, does not change the essence of the Labor Party, but rather renews its excellent traditional values that have been trampled and forgotten.


During the pre-state period and during the early days of independence, the Labor Party waved two banners –socialism and security-diplomacy.


From this perspective, kibbutz members served as a shining example of this combination, despite their relatively small numbers as a percentage of Israeli society.


If Berl Katzenelson, David Ben-Gurion or the other founding fathers of Israeli social-democracy could vote today, they would view Amir Peretz and friends as their natural ideological successors, and they would view positively the mighty program of immigrant absorption, settlement, and moves to protect social solidarity. And all this without giving up on Israel's security interests


Needed: Strong Labor


If, in fact, Kadima wants to make peace, or at least if that party wants to withdraw and separate from the Palestinian people, it will always enjoy the support of the Labor Party.


But real moves to reduce poverty and to repair the wrongdoing that has been done will require a massive, strong Labor Party presence in the coalition to be headed by Kadima, because from now on these issues are more than an election issue for the Labor Party. They are a return to traditional values that for the first time top the party's agenda.


פרסום ראשון: 03.22.06, 11:23
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