As Israel goes to the polls, Labour Friends of Israel whose motto is “working towards a two state solution” are, through their Deputy Director, advocating over at Progress a vote for Ha’avoda – the Israel Labour Party which now styles itself as a centre party and is no longer (contrary to Progress claims) a member of the Socialist International. Uri Avnery, who writes a regular column at Gush Shalom, has his own advice on who to vote for. The first Israeli to have met with Yasser Arafat, Uri has a rather longer history of active support for Palestinian statehood than Labour Friends of Israel. He has this to say of the Israeli Labour Party:
The largest (centre party) is the Labor Party under Shelly Yachimovich, which now stands at about 15%.
I must confess that I have never liked Shelly very much, but that should not influence my vote. She can (and sure does) boast of several achievements. She has taken a moribund party and turned it into a live force again. She has found new and attractive candidates.
The trouble is that she has helped to eradicate peace from the national agenda. She has made overtures to the settlers and their allies. Although she has paid the obligatory lip service to the “two-state solution”, she has done absolutely nothing to further it. Her sole concern is with what she calls “social justice”.
She has promised not to join a Netanyahu-Lieberman government. Experience has taught us not to take such pre-election promises too seriously – there is always a “national emergency” lurking round the corner – but even as head of the opposition, a peace-denier can do a lot of damage. Sorry, not for me.
He is rather more positive about the only Israeli party that is actually a member of the Socialist International, the more left-wing Meretz, which he says he prefers “though without much enthusiasm”:
There is something old and dreary about this party, which was founded in 1973. It says all the right things about peace and social justice, democracy and human rights. But it says them in a weary voice. There are no new faces, no new ideas, no new slogans.
A large number of leading intellectuals, writers and artists have come out for Meretz. (The party took great pains not to list leftists without clear “Zionist” credentials.) But, as a Labor minister said long ago about the intellectuals: “They don’t fill half a refugee camp.”
All in all, it is still the best choice in the circumstances. A significant increase of their presence in the Knesset would at least encourage hopes for the future.
This is not a glowing reference, which reflects the paucity of choice (in spite of the large number and ever changing range of parties) available to that section of the Israeli electorate committed to peace and justice for the Palestinians. On this, Uri adds:
The day after these disastrous elections, the effort to create a different landscape must begin. Never again should we be faced with such a dilemma.
Let’s hope that next time – which may be quite soon – we shall have the chance to vote with enthusiasm for a dynamic party that embodies our convictions and hopes.