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Labor Abandons the Left Center Lane, Shinui Moves In

02 December 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Under Amram Mitzna, the Israeli Labor party is positioning itself firmly on the left, doing its best to avoid the center.  The vision of a two state solution and a return to the generous offers of Ehud Barak are being reincarnated as if nothing happened in Israeli-Palestinian relations over the past two years.  Peace Now activist and former minister Prof. Yuli Tamir is to be one a main spokeswoman in the campaign, thereby enhancing the new hard line left wing Labor image and reinforcing the perception of an elitist leadership. 

The party ignores reality since the average Israeli is much more worried about his personal security than he is about a two state solution (which most Israelis support) at the moment.  The press continues to drone on that Sharon is a “failure” and the enlightened journalists cannot understand how anyone could support the prime minister.  The PM has his priorities straight, first defeat terrorism, them give the Palestinians a state.  He also tells the public the truth without ‘new vision’ quick fix solutions.  The public is not as stupid as the press would like to believe.

Yes, Sharon did promise “peace and security” but then so did everyone else.  His other advantage is not speaking to the Israeli press, seen by the average person as left leaning and cantankerous.  Even Mitzna who has no aversion to giving interviews has admitted that after he ‘gives’ the Palestinians a state, terrorism will continue.  In order to counterbalance such accusations the press has been running stories on their own tough attitude towards the Labor candidate and how they constantly “belittle” his abilities and thereby they show no favoritism.  But the populace just is not buying it.

On a four lane highway where the far right has been taken by the National Unity – Yisrael Beitainu party, the right of center is occupied by a Likud tractor trailer and Labor is battling Meretz for the left lane, the left center roadway remains wide open. 

Tommy Lapid of the Shinui party is fully aware of these developments.  In the last elections he redirected his party into an anti-Haredi (ultra-orthodox) and capitalist stance.  He is against the massive, state funded yeshiva programs, which according to former Labor finance minister, Baiga Shochet, are said to have 70,000 students who neither work nor serve in the army.  This is double the accepted statistic usually given and mentioned in this column as well.  Labor and Shochet gave into Haredi demands in their 1999 coalition and they will continue to do so should they form the next government.

But Lapid has decided to drop this as a major campaign issue, realizing the message has sunk in, and there is no reason for overkill.  He even has 200 Haredi supporters.  His party is moving over to a domestic economic agenda to encourage investment and  jump start the economy.  Because there are both doves and hawks in his party there are just the general demands to destroy terrorism and an overall support for a Palestinian state in the end.  The party will not veer off to the left like Labor nor will it have serious ‘nay sayers’ to a Palestinian state like the Netanyahu supporters in the Likud.

Shinui is gearing up to grab the left center lane with polls showing them doubling their present 6 seats.  If substantial efforts will be made to tap into this major voter sector and Labor will complete its abdication of any attempts to attract the center, Shinui could triple its Knesset representation in the next elections, possibly outpolling Mitzna and friends.  They could then help form the expected Likud led coalition after Jan. 28.

It should be pointed out Lapid is only a politician for the past four years.  He had been a journalist whose opinions were not very popular with his colleagues for the previous forty.