Lessons from 1977
Thirty-five years ago today, Israel's most famous political upset took place, catapulting Menachem Begin and his Likud party into power and ending their "long public service in the opposition." Since then the Right has held a tight grip on the reins of power, albeit with brief interruptions by the Left. But despite this ostensibly unchallenged control, at times it seems as though the Left has been at the helm of the ship.
In many ways, Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the strongest prime ministers Israel has ever had. His mega-coalition of 94 MKs only proves that there is no real opposition in Israel. Such a reality is largely a result of the Left's political demise and the Right's success in winning over the public's hearts and minds. The Left is more preoccupied with protecting foreign workers and reinstating socialism than with demonstrations against the occupation.
But alongside the seemingly all-powerful government there is also an outrageous sense of weakness. While the Right may be in power, on core issues it has remained mute. The fact that the much-derided Oslo Accords still govern our political thinking and that the concept of a two-state solution has still not been discarded in favor of a more appropriate alternative is a case in point. During Netanyahu's second term in office, most Likud members have endorsed the notion of applying Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Nevertheless, the fear of acting has trumped the same common sense that guided Begin when he decided to annex the Golan Heights despite the international community's hostile stance on this issue.
This is also the case when it comes to the so-called outpost arrangement bill. This huge government keeps embarrassing itself in the face of five buildings in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood — homes that have been purchased lawfully. Once again, another case of governing phobia.
The media and the High Court of Justice have also played a supporting role in creating this situation. In most outpost court cases, the state, through the State Prosecution, failed to provide support to the Jewish residents there. A normal right-wing government would not let 350,000 citizens be at the mercy of the army and the minister of defense, which must approve every construction permit and land purchase there. A normal right-wing government would apply the state's sovereignty on Judea and Samaria's Jewish communities. A normal right-wing government would have continued the fight to cut funding to the Left's nongovernmental organizations, which have caused tremendous damage to the state.
This weakness should not be treated as a fact of life. Past national unity governments formed when the right-left divide could not be resolved; but this political gridlock has long been decided in favor of the Right. The stability of the current government relies on a solid majority on the Right, which would be happy to see Israeli law applied in Judea and Samaria.
There is a general feeling that every right-wing government harbors a fear of governing from the right. Every time someone cries out "fascists," we are struck with anxiety even if this is shallow demagoguery. We must make it clear to the chorus of reporters — those who like to wave at us the magic words "destruction of democracy" to protest any move that has a hint of right-wing ideology — that respecting the majority's view is an important democratic principle.
We now have a window of opportunity for this unity government to put its historical stamp on the Iranian issue and the issue of mandatory service for all. But this is also the time to change the status of Judea and Samaria communities so as to establish a fait accompli and to create the right balance between the legislature and the judiciary. Only then will the political change of 1977 be complete.
Tzipi Hotovely is a Likud MK.