Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."

Right and Left in Israel

Prof. Paul Eidelberg


The terms “Right” and “Left” have been bandied about ever since the French Revolution.  Use of these shibboleths to damn individuals or groups or to avoid dealing with the merits of an issue is deeply engrained in the mentality of the modern world.  Their use in Israel is especially pernicious,  Because Israel is the only country in the world whose very survival is at stake, such labels as “Right” and Left” obscure life and death issues.


For generations “Right” and “Left” have taken the place of the traditional distinction between good and bad.   To probe beneath this moral obscurantism in Israel, we must see how the terms “Right” and “Left” relate to Israel’s raison d’etre­­ or paramount principle as a Jewish state.  Thus, while labeling a party’s position on a basic issue “Right” or “Left,” one must determine whether its position is consistent with Israel’s raison d’etre.


1) Morality:  Generally speaking, the Right identifies with the Biblical tradition, hence with “family values.”  It abhors the Left’s permissive attitude toward homosexuality, gay marriages, pornography, etc.—the position of left-wing parties like Labor, Meretz, now Kadima parties.   Accordingly, whereas the Right would preserve Jewish morality by means of education and indirectly by means of law, the Left regards morality a private matter.   Clearly, the Left’s position is contrary to Israel’s raison d’etre, which is not to say that the Right’s conception of education and law is adequate for Israel’s survival in the Middle East. 


2) The Territorial Issue:  Israel’s territorial retreat from Jewish land cannot but erode Jewish national consciousness and undermine Israel’s survival as a Jewish state.  This is precisely why the Kadima, Labor, and Meretz parties favored withdrawal from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha) and the deracination of their Jewish communities.  Meanwhile, these parties support a Palestinian state.  They are clearly opposed to Israel’s raison d’etre as a Jewish state, which is not to say that the Right (if it is more than a name) has the wisdom to deal with the territorial issue. 


What about the Likud?  Former Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon advocated a Palestinian state, and he had the support of most of the Likud’s Knesset membership.  Although some Likud MKs opposed Palestinian statehood, only former MK Naomi Blumenthal voted to abrogate Oslo. Taken as a whole, therefore, the Likud’s position on the territorial issue is not consistent with Israel’s raison d’etre.  It is a thoroughly compromised party and may be classified as the “Reluctant Left”—and for more reasons that will appear below.   


Consider the reputedly right-wing National Religious Party (NRP).  Although it ostensibly opposes a Palestinian state, it signed the March 2003 Likud coalition agreement that binds the signatories to Oslo—hence, a Palestinian state.  Moreover, both the NRP and the Likud would submit the territorial issue to a national referendum even though Israel’s Arab citizens make up 20% of the electorate!  This would make a Palestinian state almost a certainty.


What about Avigdor Lieberman’s reputedly “right-wing” Israel Beiteinu Party.?   Lieberman has advocated Arab “cantons” in Yesha as a transitional stage toward a Palestinian state.  Therefore, Israel Beiteinu’s position on the territorial issue is more leftist than rightist. 


3) Religion and State:  Kadima, Labor, and Meretz, as well as Israel Beiteinu and various members of the Likud, advocate separation of religion and state.  This cannot but transform Israel into a “state of its citizens” (which  prompts many Arabs to vote for these parties). No wonder these parties tolerate seditious Arab parties in the Knesset.  Moreover, Kadima Minister Meir Sheetret advocated rescinding the Law of Return—the foundational law of Israel as a Jewish state.


Clearly, these parties oppose Israel’s raison d’etre as a Jewish state. Hence, as concerns Israel’s raison d’etre as a Jewish state, they should be classified as part of the Left! 
4) Governmental Structure: No party says anything about the undemocratic character of Israel’s political and judicial institutions, which enables office holders to ignore or trample on the abiding beliefs and values of the Jewish people with impunity.  Hence, no party in Israel can be classified as serious nationalist party.


It follows that there is no genuine Right in Israel!  No party publicly advocates Jewish sovereignty over Judea, Samaria, and Gaza in the name of God’s covenant with the Jewish People.  No party boldly proclaims that Israel’s raison d’etre as a Jewish State must be the State’s paramount principle, to which all other principles are subordinate.  And no party offers a Constitution that embodies this paramount principle.


Insofar as the terms “Right” and “Left” have taken the place of the traditional distinction between good and bad, things are pretty bad in the State of Israel.