Wednesday, December 11, 2002
So now Amram Mitzna says he's in the moderate center. Does that mean he'll join a Sharon-led coalition government, if asked? 'Cause he'll be asked.
What has Mitzna accomplished so far in his campaign to revive Labor? He failed to satisfy the doctrinaire leftists who, though a minority in the party, are among its most vocal members. So now those leftists are decamping for Meretz. I count that as a positive. So long as Beilin was a power in the party, the party could not join a national unity government. And a Labor party unwilling to join a unity government is one that has not come to terms with the fact that the P.A. has declared war on Israel. In war, you close ranks. If Labor can't see that, they are no longer fit to govern.
He has had warm words for Shas and hostile words for Shinui. That's not likely to win Shinui voters over to Labor - and these are the voters, not the Meretz leftists, that Labor most win if it is to ever have a chance of running the country again. Mitzna is acting precisely like Labor leaders in the past: assuming that a majority will come, and trying to keep fences open to "3rd parties" so he can build a government after the election. Labor should be adopting the Shinui platform, not criticizing it. How many Haredim vote Labor anyhow?
Mind you, I think Shinui has some evolving to do. It would have been much better had Meimad joined up with Shinui rather than Labor for this election. Had it done so, Shinui would have gotten a boost and Meimad would have done a real national service, helping to make clear that an emerging liberal party is not anti-religious but anti- a corrupt religious establishment. Yes, this would have required a certain amount of compromise on Shinui's part, something they are not known for. And that would also have been good: if Shinui could not come to terms with Meimad, then we would all know that it has no intention of being a major party, but is a pure protest vehicle. On the other hand, if it had come to terms with them, it would have taken a major step forward - and, incidentally, become the natural default partner for Labor in government, and a potential partner for Likud.
Mitzna was chosen by Labor because he was a new face, untainted by the squabbling of his predecessors. But he looks increasingly just like Barak (also a new face in his day). He is building the same coalition, around the same issues, on the same basis. He wants to attract the Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox, not the angry secularists who are building a viable alternative to Labor. He wants to attract the Arab vote, not realizing that since 1999 the Arab vote has been radically alienated - and those who have not been alienated, like the Druze, are increasingly voting Likud. He has learned absolutely nothing from the Oslo War; he would still negotiate with Arafat, and if negotiations failed he would still withdraw unilaterally - precisely Barak's strategy in the territories and in Lebanon, and precisely what brought us to where we are today.
Israel is headed towards either a one-party system or a no-party system. If Sharon keeps the Likud from flying off in a radical-right direction, Likud will be the majority party for a generation. If he fails, there will be no party capable of governing the country. Because Labor has learned nothing from its failures.