‘Good Labor – Bad Likud': Dispelling the Myth of ‘Democracy' within Israel's Political Establishment
07 March 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
The Israeli ‘Right', as demonstrated by a scary coalition of rightwing
nationalists, ultranationalists and religious zealots, deserves all the bad
press it has garnered since its formation last May.
But none of this should come as a shock, as the ‘Right' in Israel has never
been anything but a coalition of demagogues that catered to the lowest common
denominator in society. As unlikable as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu is, he is, in fact, a fair representation of the worst that Israel
has to offer, which, over the years, has morphed to represent mainstream
But Israel has not always been ruled by the right-wingers, and the likes of
current Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, who has made a habit of calls for
extermination and genocide of Palestinians, are relatively newcomers to
Israel's political tussle. In previous Knessets, the likes of her would have
been assigned to a neglected seat in the back of the Knesset, along with other
lunatics who often mouthed profanities and incessantly called for killing all
Gentiles. Tellingly, she is now one of the main centerpieces in Netanyahu's
Somehow, this may be of benefit to the wider world. At least now, many would
get to see Israel as the country that it has always been, but which has
cleverly hidden its real nature under a mask of liberal façade and ever-touted
democratic ideals. Few, with good conscience, can claim that Netanyahu and his
partners – Moshe Yaalon, Naftali Bennet and Shaked, among others – are icons
of democracy, any democracy, however lacking. In fact, a new draft in the
Knesset, which is in the process of becoming a law, proposes to punish any
Israeli organization that dares question Israel's behavior and undemocratic
Those who are anticipating the supposed liberal democratic forces in Israel to
rise against the destructive rightwing machine should also reconsider. Isaac
Herzog, the chairman of the Labor Party and head of the Zionist Union
coalition is not markedly different than Netanyahu, at least when it comes to
issues of substance. At best, he is a true manifestation of Israel's
center-left, double-faced approach to politics. Oddly enough, it is the
‘Right' that has learned the tricks of the trade from the ‘Left' in Israel,
not the other way around.
In recent comments, Herzog shouted from the pits of his party's political
irrelevance that he does not ''see a possibility at the moment of implementing
the two-state solution.'' He told Israeli Army Radio that if he is to become a
Prime Minister, he would focus on implementing security measures instead of
investing in a bilateral agreement with the Palestinians.
While he partly blamed Netanyahu for the failure to achieve the supposedly
coveted goal of two states, he also assigned equal blame to the ever-hapless
Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who has been watching for years as his
make-believe world of ‘peace process' has been collapsing around him, unable
to even control his own exit from, or entry to the West Bank without a prior
permit from the Israeli army.
However, the issue is far more important than blaming Israel's hypocritical
and cowardly ‘Left': but, rather, to highlight a dominant myth about the
‘Right' and ‘Left' within Israel's political establishment.
For many years, much of the Western world's understanding of Israel has been
based on a cluster of myths, from the early fables of the Zionists making the
desert bloom, to Palestine supposedly being a land without people for a people
without land. This intricately constructed and propagated mythology evolved
over time, as Israeli hasbara labored to provide a perception of reality that
was required to justify its wars, its military occupation, its constant
violations of human rights and its many war crimes.
One aspect of the Western perception of Israel is that the ‘Jewish-state',
which is also a ‘democracy', has been experiencing a long-drawn-out battle
between rightwing ideologues, and liberal forces that have labored to preserve
Israel's democratic ideals.
However, such misrepresentations are always grossly at odds with the reality.
Take any aspect of Israeli history that many, even in the Western hemisphere,
now see as immoral and inhumane – for example, the ethnic cleansing of the
Palestinians, the massacres of 1947-48, the racism against Palestinians who
remain in today's Israel after the Nakba, the illegal Occupation of the West
Bank and Gaza, the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, the construction of
the illegal settlements, the building of the Apartheid Wall, and, more
recently, the wars on Gaza which killed over 4,000 people since 2008. Much of
these atrocities have the fingerprints of Labor and their allies.
The fact is that it was the Mapai Party, which was later joined by other
supposedly ‘progressive' forces to form the Labor Party in the 1960s, that has
been responsible for most of the bloodletting, ethnic cleansing and illegal
practices that have pushed the situation to this degree of desperation.
The rightwing in Israel did not achieve prominence until the late 1970s. Prior
to that, Israel was ruled exclusively by Labor governments. Netanyahu's
current rightwing government officials are by no means short of exacting utter
cruelty in inhumaneness, and the reality is that this behavior is rooted in a
political past. What largely differs between the ‘Right' and ‘Left' in Israel
is the expression of their political discourses, certainly not the outcomes.
The fundamental reason why some insist on maintaining that myth – of Israel's
‘Peace Camp' compared to the ominous ‘Right' – is that they are frenziedly
promoting the idea that Israel is still governed by democratic forces, an
assumption that allows Western governments the time and space to ignore the
plight of the Palestinians. Rightwing leaders like Netanyahu and his coalition
partners are an utter embarrassment to Europe – still a major supporter of
Israel – and they make it very difficult for the United States to even sustain
the charade of its peace process. The West longs for the days when Israel was
governed by less belligerent sounding leaders, regardless of their violent
Labor governments in Israel, whether those that existed in the late 40s and
50s, or those that ruled under the leaderships of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres,
Ehud Barak, etc., never truly showed any genuine sign that ending the
Occupation and granting Palestinians a form of real sovereignty was ever on
Do not believe the hype. Rabin was given a Nobel Peace Prize after the 1993
signing of the Oslo Accords, despite the fact that Oslo did not give
Palestinians sovereignty or the right to self-determination. Instead, it
sliced up the West Bank into various zones, ultimately controlled by the
Israeli army, and bribed some within the Palestinian elites with phony titles,
VIP cards and mounds of money to play along. Rabin was killed by a Rightwing
Jewish zealot because, as far as the religious and ultranationalist camps in
Israel were concerned, even such ‘concessions' as a Palestinian flag and a
national anthem, among other symbolic ‘achievements' offered to the
Palestinians by Oslo, were still considered a taboo.
So, when Herzog threw his hand in the air and postponed any discussion of a
‘two-state solution' that has been dead and buried for years now, it was not a
sign that Labor had given up or that the level-headed Herzog is officially
fed-up with the shenanigans of Netanyahu and stubbornness of Abbas. It is a
mere contribution of the ‘good Labor-bad Likud' routine that the Israeli
ruling class have played for decades.
The great irony, though, is that the destruction of the ‘two-state solution'
myth was the predictable outcome of the illegal Jewish colonies in the
Occupied Territories, which were, interestingly enough, the backbone of the
Labor Party policies following the illegal Occupation of what remained of
historic Palestine after the war of 1967.
At the time, rightwing forces were too insignificant to merit mention. Only
the Labor reigned supreme, which single-handedly took over Palestine and
precluded every chance for a lasting peace.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include ‘Searching Jenin', ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest
‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. His website is: