Developments today in Israeli and U.S. elections combined to make me absolutely miserable. On top of that Seattle, where I live, is one of America’s premier Coronavirus hot spots. It is spreading like wildfire, but there is a preternatural calm in the city: road traffic is down, restaurants and stores are half-full. It’s as if the town was waiting for the other shoe (or an anvil) to drop. Like I said: depressing.
I know that’s not an auspicious way to begin a blog post. So I hope you haven’t fled yet and will persevere. Perhaps we can somehow comfort each other in the midst of our misery.
In another round of Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders was soundly trounced virtually everywhere. A Big Blue Wall has descended, like Churchill’s Iron Curtain, on Democratic America. The voters have spoken. They have turned their back on progressive politics and thrown in their lot with an addle-brained middle-of-the-road, uninspiring, corporate shill. Personally, I don’t think Biden can beat Trump (barring any unforeseen disasters that rise to the level of national catastrophe). He isn’t even as strong a candidate as Hillary was in 2016.
I have decided that I cannot vote for Biden in the general election. It might matter if there was any chance of Trump carrying Washington State. But there isn’t. And given our Electoral College system, the popular vote counts for little in these elections.
As I’ve written before, I have been voting in elections since 1970. In that span, I’ve felt forced to vote for the least-worst candidate many times. I’m not going to do that this time. This country had a chance to vote for someone who rose far above the usual level of mediocrity and compromise among candidates, and they shunned him. I cannot cover my eyes and cast such a vote again.
The best that can be said for Biden is that he won’t f*k things up as badly as Trump. He will presumably appoint cabinet secretaries and intelligence officials who are competent and actually want to pursue the nation’s interests as broadly defined, rather than his own personal ones. But the really intractable problems, the very ones Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were tackling, will remain to be dealt with another day. We may not go to war against Iran under Biden, but we surely won’t make any progress on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Biden is impoverished both in terms of ideas and platform.
Regarding Bernie’s second failed candidacy, clearly this was his Last Hurrah. But as I said about Elizabeth Warren after she left the race, her supporters should not be embittered. Warren herself can run again. And she has inspired millions of women and girls to do what she has done. Surely, at least one of them, if not more, will become president and do so in order to implement her political platform. The same can be said of Bernie. My generation rejected Bernie. But the younger generation embraced him, while resoundingly rejecting Biden.. In another term or two, one of them will run for president and win. That person will have the chance to implement some of Bernie’s Big Ideas. My hope is that there is a Lincoln or a Roosevelt out there nurturing such dreams and a call to service.
Israel is its own special political s*tshow. Whereas yesterday, Benny Gantz was confidently preparing his new minority government which would survive with the tacit support of the Palestinian Joint List, today brings disaster anew. Progressive Israelis were encouraged both by the massive turnout for the Joint List and the powerful role it might play in shaping the next government, even if it wasn’t directly in it. This appeared to be a watershed moment when Israel might begin to breakdown the fractured tribalism of its political system and embrace a national identity. Alas, it was not to be.
Gantz knew there were two former Likudniks recruited to the Blue and White bloc by Moshe Yaalon’s faction. They made clear that they were resisting even a tacit relationship with the “Arab” parties. Gantz, though, felt they would fall in line rather than being responsible for destroying the chances of his Party forming the new government. But what a difference a day makes.
He woke up to discover that Orly Levy-Abekasis, a former Yisrael Beitenu MK, now running on Amir Peretz’s Labor faction, had essentially bolted from the paddock. Despite having said publicly a week ago that she would be willing to serve in a government supported by the Joint List, today she announced it would “violate basic norms and values” of the country for her to do so. It is always refreshing when a politician casts their racist, selfish motive in the high-minded rhetoric of upholding the values of the nation. And with a straight face she calls Gantz a hypocrite for “shamefully being willing to pay any price to anybody in order to form a minority government.”
Think of it: in Germany, a Christian Democratic state governor approved a coalition with the neo-Naiz AfD party. The furor that resulted caused Chancellor Merkel’s heir apparent to resign. That is what Levy-Abekasis is claiming. That the Joint List is the Israeli equivalent of neo-Nazis. And that, in a nutshell, is why Israel is f*ked. As long as this sort of Judeo-fascist thinking prevails the country is doomed to become a third-rate Judeo-theocratic backwater. And it’s well on its way there.
Who’s to blame for this mess? No other than Amir Peretz, leader of the Labor Party, who recruited her from obscurity when her Party failed in its first attempt to enter Knesset. Her father was a senior Likud leader. Her brother is a Likud mayor. But somehow Peretz believed that recruiting her would add to his list.
In fact, Time of Israel reports a rumor that Levy-Abekasis’ brother was seen entering Netanyahu’s residence the night before she announced her desertion of the Labor-Meretz coalition. Supposedly, he was bearing a message from her to the PM. If she succeeds in causing a fourth election you can expect her to receive a high ranking in Likud’s next electoral list. Betrayal has its privileges.
This only confirms the continuing bankruptcy of the Zionist Left, which believes that it must sacrifice any real progressive values in order to persuade right-wing voters to turn to it. It’s an affliction of all left and centrist politics in Israel. The answer isn’t to pander to voters who won’t give you the time of day. The answer is to remain true to your values and express them as vigorously as you can. To stand for something other than compromise and betrayal.
This further proves that the only real alternative for Israeli progressives, whether Jewish or Palestinian, is the Joint List. It represents its voters fully. While some of the factions are willing to compromise in supporting Gantz for prime Minister for example, they largely hold fast to fundamental principles and aggressively represent their constituents. They represent a vision of a nation integrating Jews and Palestinians, instead of a factional tribalism mentality offered by the Jewish Parties.
Were she the only holdout the new government could move ahead anyway. But if she and the two Blue and White naysayers together would sink the ship. Unless they can be persuaded to change their minds, Israel is headed to a fourth round of elections coming in the fall.
The difference between the film, Groundhog Day and Israeli elections is that in the film, Bill Murray’s asshole weatherman gradually becomes a better human being each day until he is finally redeemed by love. In the Israeli elections, each result is the same (or worse) than the one before. My definition of a national nightmare.
The question is: are these three MKs posturing for position or a cabinet ministry appointment? Or are they firm in their view? Another question: what, if anything have they each been promised if they bolt their current posts and join the Likud List for the next election? One of the many things I detest about Israeli politics is the naked horsetrading that goes on. Of course, such things happen in every government. But not as nakedly as in Israel. So you can’t necessarily presume that what the holdouts are saying today is their final say. If they are bartering for something, they could still fall in line. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.