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Israel’s Single-Issue Party

Some are dumbfounded that Ariel Sharon and the Likud are bringing Labor into the government to form a national unity coalition. Some cannot believe their eyes and ears and noses.

This, after all, is the same Labor Party that anti-democratically imposed Oslo upon Israel and then turned the country into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is the same Labor party that decided Israel needed to try to appease its way to peace, needed to reward each atrocity committed by the Palestinians with new concessions and goodwill gestures – policies that resulted un 1,600 murdered Israelis, thousands more wounded and maimed, and countless destroyed lives of surviving family members.

But no one should really be surprised by this turn of events. To understand why Sharon would bring Shimon Peres in as his Number Two and replace his other coalition partners with the Labor Party, it is necessary to understand just one thing:

The most fundamental fact of life about Israeli politics is that Likud is a single-issue party. And that single issue is the reelection of the Labor Party.

Seriously.

That is why almost every time Likud has been elected by voters nauseated by Labor, its first priority has been to bring the defeated Laborites back into a national unity coalition. Likud is afraid to govern Israel, even when it wins elections by landslides. It seeks only to restore Labor hegemony and is perfectly willing to implement Labor-style socialism until that becomes feasible.

But the evidence of Likud being a single-issue party is far broader and comprehensive than what I have indicated. Ever since the first Likud government of Menachem Begin took power in 1977, Likud has implemented policies whose only conceivable explanation is that Likud politicians desire above all to restore the political fortunes of the very party they vanquished.

Until 1977, Israel was one of those single-party countries more commonly found in the Third World or Eastern Europe. But the debacle of the Yom Kippur War and a series of Labor corruption scandals at long last ended Labor’s monopoly. Perversely, almost from the first day of its reign, the Likud government of Begin worked to make Labor look good in retrospect.

Likudniks initiated the massive Bank-Shares Pyramid scheme, one of the largest and most harmful economic scams in human history, and when it collapsed it cost the country about a quarter of its GDP. At the same time, Begin’s people went on a Latin American-style money-printing joyride, and by the mid-1980′s the inflation rate was approaching quadruple digits. To any sensible observer, it seemed Begin was working overtime to discredit Likud and bring back Labor.

It was Begin’s successor, however, who at last fully succeeded in restoring Labor Party rule. After inviting Laborites to re-enter the government ruling coalitions in the 1980′s, Yitzhak Shamir displayed such complete incompetence that in 1992 the Labor Party was reelected. Refusing to reciprocate Likud’s generosity, Labor chose not to invite Likud into its coalition government.

But by 1996, Labor had produced such a disaster with its mindless Oslo initiative that even the enormous upsurge of pro-Labor sentiment that flowed in the aftermath of the Rabin assassination could not save the party from electoral collapse. Bibi Netanyahu was elected prime minister, and he immediately set out to prove once more that Likud is a single-issue party.

Netanyahu did everything humanly possible to bring Labor back into power, and while he was waiting for his efforts to bear fruit implemented Oslo policies that even Labor had dared not try, including the Wye capitulation.

Reminiscent of the American public’s disgust with the Coca-Cola company over its 1985 New Coke fiasco, Israeli voters realized that the Labor Party was more genuine than Likud’s weak imitation and decided they’d rather have the real thing. Labor’s Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu and came within a facial mole of destroying Israel and turning the Western Wall and the Old City over to the PLO savages.

But Israel was rescued by a miracle it probably did not deserve – Arafat’s stupefying intransigence – and the much maligned Ariel Sharon creamed Labor twice, first defeating the hapless Barak and then winning reelection against the clueless Amram Mitzna.

But in true Likud manner, Sharon proved he was a single-issue candidate and that his single issue was the restoration of Labor to power. At first he did so by adopting as his own pet the mangy mutt that Amram Mitzna had attempted to run past the voters as his election platform: the unilateral capitulation by Israel to the PLO and the eviction of all Jews from the Gaza Strip.

But that was only the opening round. Sharon was counting the moments until he could restore Labor icon Shimon Peres – an intimate friend of Sharon’s – to his proper position as the Likud’s Elder Statesman.

Can Defense Minister Yossi Beilin be far behind?

At last the inevitable has happened. The Likud may be one of the most successful political parties in human history: It nearly always succeeds in its single-minded pursuit of its single goal.

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steven_plaut@yahoo.com.

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


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