Here, from National Review Online, is an analysis by Meyrav Wurmser of why Israel’s left suffered such a crushing defeat in Tuesday’s elections. The rival Likud party was rocked by financial scandals and had presided over a weak economy while experiencing only mixed success in combatting terrorism. Nonetheless, Labor suffered a defeat so resounding that, for now at least, it is difficult to view Israeli politics as a two-party system.
Wurmser cites three reasons for this. The first and most obvious is that Labor is still viewed as responsible for the failed Oslo accords and subsequent decline in personal security. This is because Labor has been unable to re-examine its world view in light of the collapse of Oslo. Instead, the only soul-searching that Labor engages in is over how quickly to return to the negotiating table. As Wurmser notes, “the majority of Israelis view this internal debate with a mixture of anger and disbelief.”
A second reason for Labor’s crushing defeat was the fact that when Prime Minister Sharon went on television to defend himself against corruption charges, his speech was forced off the air by a Supreme Court judge. As Rocket Man predicted at the time, this caused a significant backlash. It was the “Wellstone death rally” moment of the campaign.
The third reason, which is related to the first two, was the electorate’s sense that the Israeli left hates not only the government but the concept of Israel itself. Wurmser quotes the celebrated left-wing author Amos Oz as follows: “Among some of the radical intelligentsia in Israel today I see hatred not only for the religious, but also for the settlers, the Right, and the nationalists. I see sweeping hatred for the architecture, for the music, the folk songs, the memories — for everything. For the streets on which people walk. For the buses on which people travel.”
There may be a lesson in this for our politics. Our left, arguably as influential in Democratic politics as Israel’s left is in Labor, has not re-examined its assumptions in the face of September 11. And its hatred of Americana may be approaching the hatred that Oz describes. Because Americans do not experience terrorism on a daily basis, the Democrats do not presently incur voter wrath to the extent that the Labor party does, nor am I predicting that they will. But there are enough similarities that the possibility that the Democrats will experience a Labor party type melt-down cannot be dismissed.
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