The Weakening of the Israeli
By Martin Sherman
July 13, 2018
the day-to-day political discourse, the current Netanyahu-led coalition is
frequently referred to as the “most right-wing” ever in Israel’s political
This is, of course, totally absurd.
the “right,” as it once was on the eve of the Oslo process, is totally
extinct in terms of the substantive content of its then-political credo.
in terms of organizational labels of what are commonly accepted as denoting
“left” and “right,” political factions labelled as “right” have
regularly defeated their adversaries labeled as “left” in parliamentary
elections and, in fact, have for almost the last decade, comprised the ruling
however, are gravely misleading. For if one examines the political prescriptions
adopted by the current “right-wing,” in most cases they are, in principle,
indistinguishable, except for nuance and detail, from those of the pre-Oslo
should be recalled that in the years preceding Oslo, contact with PLO personnel
was a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment. Moreover, advocating the
establishment of a Palestinian state was borderline sedition. Yet this was
precisely what the leader of the “right,” Benjamin Netanyahu, embraced in
his ill-advised speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009.
Netanyahu attempted to hedge his acceptance of Palestinian statehood with
totally impractical and hence, irrelevant reservations, in a stroke he
transformed the strategic structure of the debate—from whether or not there
should be a Palestinian state, to what the parameters of that state should be.
effect, this was a point of singularity in the history of Israeli politics, one
which marked the extinction of the “right” as we knew it before.
although the “right” retained its formal organizational structure, the
substance of its ideological contents was dramatically transformed. What was
once taboo was now acceptable.
today, the declared policy of the Likud Party, the leading faction of the
“right,” is essentially the same as that of the far-left Meretz faction in
the early 90s: A policy that envisions the establishment of a demilitarized,
self-governing Palestinian-Arab entity on large portions of the territory across
the pre-1967 lines in Judea-Samaria and Gaza.
only real difference now between the Israeli “right” and “left” is the
degree of resigned reluctance on the one hand, and the enthusiastic endorsement
on the other, with which they respectively appraised the prospect of Palestinian
self-determination. Thus, while the “right” saw it as an undesirable but
inevitable imposition, the “left” saw it as a welcome, eagerly anticipated
the qualitative schism between “left” and “right” had effectively been
bridged (or at least, blurred); once the “right” accepted the central tenet
of the left”—i.e., that the Jewish state must forsake its claim to full
territorial control over all the land between the Jordan River and the
Mediterranean Sea, and share that control with the Arab residents of
Judea-Samaria—the “right’s” ability to offer any alternative policy
option—clearly distinguishable from that of “left’s”—began to
in the wake of Oslo and up until recent years, the “right” focused its
energies in (rightly) condemning the dangerous defects of the concessionary
policy of political appeasement and territorial withdrawal that the “left”
had embarked upon—without ever offering an actionable prescription of its own.
a result, it found itself unable to respond effectively to the pointed and
pertinent question from adversaries on the “left”: “So what’s your
alternative?” With no comprehensive, countervailing policy paradigm to promote
or defend, the “Right” found itself gradually forced to give way under the
weight of this irksome question, and to adopt increasing portions of the failed
formula it had once rejected.
process culminated in 2009 at Bar-Ilan University, when Palestinian statehood
was officially, albeit under duress, embraced.
crossed the ideological Rubicon into the “Land of the Left,” the “right”
found itself in what, for it, was largely uncharted territory.
large measure, this ideological capitulation by the “right” is totally
inexplicable—for it came about after all its censure of the “left’s”
wildly reckless doctrine had been totally vindicated.
all, by 2009, the jury was no longer out—or at least, should not have been.
None of the promises of sweeping benefits, pledged by the architects of the
land-for-peace initiative, launched by the Left over a decade and a half
previously, had been fulfilled; while all the perils, warned of by its opponents
on the “right,” had indeed materialized.
light of the unequivocal repudiation of the “left’s” political doctrine by
recalcitrant realities, one might have reasonably expected it to have been
utterly vanquished by a victorious “right.”
this was not the case.
having been proved entirely justified in its criticism of the dangerous defects
and detriments of the “left’s” political credo, the “right” proceeded
to embrace it—at least, in broad principle.
perplexing (and vexing) ideo-intellectual capitulation has had at least three
deeply disturbing consequences.
it has crippled—or at least, critically curtailed—its ability to formulate
any cogent, countervailing ideo-intellectual paradigm that does not include
significant elements of the failed political philosophy of the “left.”
In this regard, Elyakim Ha’Etzni, the doyen
of the traditional “right,” wrote recently in a piercing
is much room for Ha’Etzeni’s sense of unease. For once the “right” has
accepted the permanence of Arab residence in Judea-Samaria, and is open to
relinquishing control to it over large tracts of that territory, the difference
between itself and its adversaries on the “left” is largely one of degree,
not of kind.
it is not only on the ideological level that the “right’s” retreat has
constricted its political efficacy. The same is true regarding operational
responses on the ground.
Indeed, as Ha’Etzni points out: “
mindset adopted by the “right,” which necessarily perceives of the
Palestinian-Arab collective as a prospective interlocutor on the future of the
territory west of the Jordan River and on some future configuration of shared
control over it, seems to have blunted Israel’s operational responses to
feeble reaction to the incendiary kites/balloons is a telling case in point. For
by its muted response to the potentially lethal—albeit, primitive—offensive,
Israel, under allegedly the most “right-wing government ever,” has, for all
intents and purposes, legitimized Arab arson against Jews. After all, the fact
that dozens of Jews were not consumed by the flames caused by these risibly
inexpensive devices is due to good fortune, rather than any benign intent on the
other side to avoid the loss of life.
perceived need to preserve the Palestinian-Arab collective as a prospective
interlocutor for some future non-belligerency arrangement in the future has,
paradoxically (or not) prolonged the very belligerency it was intended to end.
by inflicting only “proportional” (read, “acceptable”) damage on the
Palestinian-Arabs—by avoiding inflicting “unacceptable” damage—Israel
is, in fact, signaling that it is prepared to tolerate their Judeophobic
aggression against it—and its people. The result has been recurring
inconclusive military campaigns in the South and countless counter-terror
operations in Judea-Samaria to foil ongoing efforts to murder and maim Jews.
and time again, Israel has invested millions in trying to counter the means of
attack rather than eliminate the will, or the ability, to mount these attacks
against Israel. Thus, suicide attacks gave rise to the walls and fences, rockets
to Iron Domes, tunnels to underground barriers and new technologies to locate
them and incendiary kites to some yet-to-be devised, multimillion-dollar
newfangled, high-tech response.
new terror tactic was met with some counter tactic, never an overarching
strategy to terminate terror—or at least, to convey that Israel will not
tolerate terror and not merely thwart it.
reason for this ongoing flaccidity is that to undertake the required action to
uproot Palestinian terror is to do what Ha’Etzni previously diagnosed as
necessary—to extend Israeli control over Areas A and B, and Gaza. But since
the “right” has wedded itself to the prospect of some future arrangement
with the Palestinian-Arabs, it cannot bring itself to do this.
third detrimental consequence of the “right’s” compliance with left-wing
parameters (apart from the previously mentioned ideological and operational
ones), is that it permits the “Left” to avoid admitting its disastrous
error. Indeed, many on the “right” have been at pains to convince the
“left” that it can in fact “live with” their policy proposals, which do
not preclude much of the political parameters sanctified by the “left.”
is a grave error. For it breathes political life into proposals that should have
been dead and buried long ago. Instead of trying to mollify and reassure its
political adversaries, the “right” needs to explicitly expose the
nonsensical, self-contradictory two-state dogma of the Left as the dangerous
drivel that it undeniably is—and dispatch it, post-haste, to the trash can of
history, where it richly deserves to languish.
Two years ago, a
Although last week I
same is true for the ideological conflict in Israel between “left” and
“right.” To ensure that there is no resurgence of the ill-conceived doctrine
of the “left” that has wrought so much predictable—and predicted—tragedy
in the past, the “right” must achieve unequivocal victory over its ideo-political
adversaries and their corrosive credo, based on bogus enemy claims to nationhood
ensure the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish
people, the “right” must halt the ongoing erosion of its political
positions. For this, it needs to correctly conceptualize the conflict with the
Palestinian-Arabs and derive its resultant strategy to deal with it—together
with means to promote it—from that conceptualization.
essence, the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian-Arabs over the
control of the Holy Land is the archetypical zero-sum game. It is a clash
between two rival collectives, with irreconcilable foundational narratives. It
is a clash in which only one side can emerge victorious; the other, vanquished.
is a clash in which the Jewish collective cannot sacrifice its collective rights
for the individual right of those in the enemy collective. If it does so, it
will lose both its collective rights and the individual rights of its
the final analysis, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, there
can, and eventually will, be either total Jewish sovereignty or total Arab
sovereignty. The side that will prevail will be the side whose national will is
the strongest and whose political vision is the sharpest.
is not radical right-wing extremism or religious fundamentalism. It is just
sound political science.