June 14, 2021 | Newsweek

Israel’s New Government Is a Rebuke of Left-Wing Nonsense

June 14, 2021 | Newsweek

Israel’s New Government Is a Rebuke of Left-Wing Nonsense

It’s impossible to say whether Israel’s new government will fail or succeed, whether it will long endure or fall apart, and whether its first steps this week will come to be seen as a dramatic new turn in the country’s history or more of the same. It’s also impossible to know what other unforeseen events in the Middle East will determine its agenda.

But what is already certain is what this new government has taught us about “expert” commentary in the U.S. about Israel. It has been woefully wrong.

On Sunday, Israel swore in a new government. Led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the new coalition comprises eight widely disparate parties: three from the right, two from the center, two from the left, and one Arab party.

If there is one picture that speaks to the emptiness of the progressive vilification of Israeli society and Israeli democracy, it is the group portrait of Israel’s new cabinet.

In the photo, twenty-seven ministers are arrayed around President Reuven Rivlin. They range in age from 37 to 74. Nine are women. One sits in a wheelchair. It might be hard to see in the photo, but three are observant Jewish men with yarmulkes on their heads. Two are Arabs, one Druze and one Muslim. Five are immigrants, born in Ethiopia, Morocco, and the former Soviet Union.

It’s worth emphasizing that this astonishingly diverse cabinet isn’t assembled, in the style of a U.S. President’s cabinet, under the direction of one leader who might (or might not) be trying to present an image of diversity. These ministers are the top parliamentarians of the parties that entered the coalition. They are not there because of tacky tokenism or pressure from what Bill Clinton famously called “the bean counters.” They are diverse because the Israelis are diverse, and they are picked from a diverse parliament because the Israelis elected a diverse parliament.

In spaces where Israel is held to be the ultimate irredeemable sinner of white settler colonialism—usually by people who are themselves white and very reluctant to forego any of their own “privilege”—such a photo cannot possibly make sense. It will likely be ignored.

In spaces where Israel was long held to be undergoing an “inexorable rightward shift,” the presence of both major left-wing parties in a governing coalition for the first time in years makes no sense. This, too, will likely be ignored.

Because for the obsessive critics, the passionate obsession with Israel’s flaws had very little to do with Israel; it has always been a projection of anxieties about their own societies faults and, more subtly and perniciously, a way of explaining the unremitting hostility of Israel’s enemies in the region without having to engage critically with the openly stated goals of those same enemies.

To be sure, center-left parties have tended to perform poorly in Israeli elections in recent years. There are many causes for this, not least the dramatic drop in Israelis’ security each of the three times center-left coalitions have come to power in the last generation.

Center-left parties have also performed remarkably poorly in the same period in Britain, France, Germany, and a host of other countries. And we haven’t even broached the awkward unpleasantness that visited American democracy in the past five years and may yet return in some unknown form in 2022 and 2024.

So it’s true that Israeli democracy faces some stiff challenges, not least the corrosive effects of the unresolved status of territories conquered in the Six Day War in 1967—unresolved, it bears noting, because of the refusal of Israel’s enemies to agree to any settlement that would involve a full reconciliation and mutual recognition.

But Israeli democracy has survived nevertheless, and this week it lived to see a new day few of its vociferous detractors believed might come.

Everyone who regularly opines on Israel should take a good look at that cabinet photo. And some should follow that with a good look in the mirror too.

Shany Mor is an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a lecturer at IDC Herzliya. Follow him on Twitter @ShMMorFDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.

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