Haaretz Opinion – Uzi BaramDec 28, 2022

Introductory Note: Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Physics concerns “Action & Reaction.” It states that “for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So too in politics. This is what so many non-ultra-Orthodox and non-right-wing extremist Israelis and American Jews are hoping will be the case as PM Netanyahu’s most extreme religious and nationalistic government in the history of the State of Israel takes control of the levers of power and inflicts them upon a largely unwilling Israeli population.  

The following is an op-ed that appeared on December 28, 2022 in *Haaretz by columnist Uzi Baram. He urges Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to come together as partners and organize against the extremist anti-democratic and fascist leanings of the new government, and on behalf of the majority of Israelis who care about the preservation of Israel’s democracy that the new government threatens to undo.

“Those who voted for the bloc for change are stunned. They are no longer examining the benighted agreements one by one, they’re experiencing a kind of shell shock. Like tourists who planned a trip to an enjoyable vacation site, with moderate temperatures and delightful spots, and upon exiting the plane discover that the temperature is 50 degrees centigrade and haze clouds every attraction.

And the shock has yet to dissipate. Every day we hear reports about horrific agreements, accompanied by pathetic denials on the part of Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s easy to fight a government that posits the annexation of the territories as a supreme value. Opponents of annexation identify the source of the salvo and respond with a war on the parliamentary, public and legal fronts. It’s far more difficult to fight against bombardment from all directions. That is the reason for the shock that sometimes leads to a sense of helplessness.

And therefore this hour is especially difficult for democracy and its liberal concept of human rights – because not only is it being savagely attacked, but at the moment it looks as though there is nobody to defend it. The media transmits the government’s messages and there are no signs of a genuine parliamentary and public battle to confront the medieval doctrines that Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, Avi Maoz and Orit Strook are trying to impose on us.

However, when the shock dissipates, harsh criticism will be directed not only at the components of the government but also against opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz. There are other parties in the opposition, but the “two aces” are the leaders of its largest parties, the National Unity party and Yesh Atid. They have an obligation to answer the question: Where is the opposition? In the cooperation between Ze’ev Elkin from the National Unity camp and Boaz Toporovsky of Yesh Atid? That doesn’t exactly meet the challenges of this period.

Lapid and Gantz must be seen together, preferably falling into each other’s arms and saying articulately and without stuttering: “What was – is in the past. Today we’re together, politically and personally. We have removed all the past residue. We are confronting a thuggish regime change when most of the public is with us. The majority is not interested in annexing the West Bank and imposing sovereignty on the Temple Mount; the majority is not interested in religious or gender discrimination, just as it doesn’t want Maoz to influence its children’s education. Nor does the majority agree to doubling the budgets of the yeshivas and increasing the allowances for married yeshiva students who are robbing the public coffers.

“Some of the citizens in whose name we speak voted Likud, but they don’t support the extremist messianic wave that we have received. Together with them and all the factions in the opposition we will lead a joint struggle, to be conducted in the Knesset and by means of a prolonged and resolute public rebellion. We cannot remain silent when an entire community feels that Yitzhak Goldknopf, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are destroying the landscape of its homeland.”

Such an appearance is necessary and urgent. The coalition in the making must be presented with a united opposition leadership. A clear and honest cooperation between Lapid and Gantz will not cause the downfall of the government, but it will indicate the direction of the struggle and in so doing will foster hope. An opposition will arise with or without them. If considerations of prestige prevent this cooperation, the vacuum will be filled by another movement. In the face of the right’s burning sense of revenge there will be someone who will posit the values of democracy and human rights.”

*Haaretz is a subscription newspaper in Israel and is considered the New York Times of Israel journalism. From time to time I print op-eds from Haaretz such as the above, but also I advocate that serious friends of Israel take out a subscription to the English language on-line site. It is worth the expense – I assure you.