In recent years, Israel’s agenda and public discourse have been dictated by a minority – the new Israeli Right: the radical wing of the National-Religious camp, settlers, bad weeds in the Likud and Kadima, nationalistic groups (such as Yisrael Beiteinu and others) and court jesters with a big budget (the Im Tirtzu group.)
This new rightist camp is post-Zionist: The reality it wishes to produce in Israel would turn it into a state that has nothing Jewish in it (with the exception of ritual and headstones) and that is certainly undemocratic.
The new Israeli Right managed to create a situation whereby our public agenda and political discourse do not pertain to fateful existential issues such as peace, the Iranian threat, the response to the “Arab Spring” or the crumbling fabric of life among different groups in society.
Instead, our public agenda is focusing on esoteric issues such as a ban on commemorating the Nakba, attempts to dry up “leftist groups,” the citizenship law, calls for prayer at mosques, the “High Court dictatorship” and so on.
As is customary for radical rightist camps, Israel’s new Right waves the patriotism flag and charges those who do not share its views with treason. Compared to the great noise it produces in respect to trivialities, its silence is deafening in the face of growing radical violence and acts of sabotage that are shamefully reminiscent of old pogroms.
One of the most saddening phenomena in this respect is the high number of former Soviet Union immigrants in the new Right’s leadership. This immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1990s is the greatest miracle that happened to Zionism. It brought a million people to Israel who made a highly significant contribution to our life here. However, this wonderful immigration wave mostly produced political leadership of the Lieberman-Shmuelov-Kirshenbaum ilk.
Netanyahu stuttering again
The greatest casualty of Israel’s new Right is of course the moderate Right. The reckless members of the new rightist camp, whether their faces are covered or not, hold a clear demagogic advantage over the moderate Right, which recognizes the constraints of this world. Moreover, the moderate Right is Zionist and is committed to a democratic and Jewish Israel. Hence, the responsible Right associated with Begin, Meridor and Arens is scared and embarrassed in the face of the new Right’s powerful demagoguery.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who makes pretenses of representing Israel’s moderate Right, is stuttering again. Instead of contending with the new, racist and clerical rightist camp, he is being submissive and helpless, as is customary for him. Netanyahu has not yet internalized the fact that a leader’s duty is to lead, and also to confront a group or a way that may prove fateful. Should he continue on the current path, he will lose on all fronts.
The new Right’s takeover of Israel’s agenda, the moderate Right’s submission, and Netanyahu’s lack of leadership are accelerating a deepening rift within Israel and also among Israel and its closest friends and supporters – the United States, Western Europe, and most of Europe’s and North America’s Jewish community. Such rifts, premised on such fundamental moral issues, are hard to mend. They have a frightening strategic implication, which will become clear following the upcoming US elections in November.
Just like Germany, Italy and Spain – nations that adopted a radical nationalistic Right and brought terrible disasters upon themselves (and others) – we too may pay the price of the new Right’s actions if we fail to curb it soon.