The debate in the pages of Ha’aretz between Gideon
Levy and Isaac Hertzog, leader of the Zionist Union/Israeli Labor Party
demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the Zionist ‘left’.
It is a useful reminder of how useless the Israeli Labour
Party is since there are illusions among the Corbynistas, not least Corbyn himself,
that the Israeli Labour Party represents an alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Herzog condemns himself and his tradition out of
his own mouth.

“Only when I and the leadership of the huge
camp I represent prove that in defense of the country, on security issues and
in times of danger, we always side with the state… will we be able to win the
trust of the majority in Israel.”

that is true.  In every single war that
Likud has led, from the invasion of Lebanon to the repeated attacks on Gaza –
Cast Lead, Protective Edge et al.  the
ILP has always stood full square behind Begin and Netanyahu.  Of course it is a deception to believe that
that would win the support of the majority in Israel.  Why vote for the ILP when you can vote for
the full-blooded version instead? 

Herzog’s second card was to accuse Levy of
not being a Zionist!  Now that might be a
crime in Israel but overseas it should open peoples’ eyes.
used to be a Zionist,” wrote Herzog. “I’m no longer sure that he is one.”
In Herzog’s eyes this is a crime.  What does it mean to be a Zionist?  Well it means believing that ‘the Jewish people’
have a right to Palestine – all of it. 
Indeed more than all of it.  The Zionist
belief is in the Land of Israel from the Litani river in Lebanon in the north to
the Nile in the south and East to the Euphrates.  Of course all this is for the future.  At the moment Palestine is more than enough.
It means that Israel should be a Jewish state.  That meant the expulsion of ¾ Palestinians in
1948, the expulsion of 300,000 in 1967, the conquering of that part of Palestine
allocated to an Arab state by the UN in 1947 and the racist, apartheid division
of Israel from 1948 to the present. 

It means that as a Jewish state then being Jewish gives
you privileges that a non-Jew does not possess. 
In every aspect of society – education, employment, land, welfare
benefits – being an Arab is to be the subject of ingrained, institutionalised discrimination
that is purposely carried out by the State. 
Whereas in most western countries racism is something the State
deplores, in Israel it is applauded.

In the ‘war against terror’ Herzog promises that he will be “more extreme than Netanyahu’.  If Netanyahu has killed 150 people in recent
weeks, then Herzog would have killed 500. 
If Netanyahu killed 2,200 in Gaza then Herzog would have killed
5,000.  This is Israel’s great white
The reality is that Likud has done nothing
that the Israeli Labour Governments before them haven’t done.  Expulsions, administrative detentions, land
confiscations, mass murder – you name it the ILP has done it. 
When the ILP mounts an election campaign
today its main message to Jewish electors is that Likud’s policies are leading
towards a bi-national state in which Arabs are a majority.  This is the evil that Labour will prevent.
The ILP has supported the racist and ‘anti-terror’
legislation of Netanyahu.  Be it the
attacks on left-wing NGO’s or the banishing of supporters of BDS from Israel or
making support for BDS an offence or the decision of Netanyahu, despite his own
security advice, to make the Northern Islamic Movement an illegal
organisation.  In all this Herzog is Netanyahu’s
faithful puppet.
Perhaps the most amusing charge that Herzog makes against Levy is that he is obsessed with the Occupation.  This shows indeed what the priorities of the Israeli Labour Party is and why those who, like Labour Friends of Israel, pretend that the ILP has a radically different policy from Likud on the Occupation, are merely poor liars.

We should be grateful to Herzog for making
it clear that there is no Zionist alternative to Netanyahu.

Tony Greenstein
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, left, and Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, right.Ofer Vaknin, Tomer Appelbaum

In a series of opposing op-eds, opposition
leader Herzog and veteran Haaretz commentator Levy get to the heart of the
differences within the Israeli left.

Haaretz Aug 28, 2015 3:47 AM
19 August
Levy began the exchange with a critique of
Isaac Herzog’s tone after the opposition leader’s visit with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas. Herzog’s “strong man” rhetoric about his extreme
commitment to the war against terror, argued Levy, was vacuous at best and at
worst, legitimized the right’s “foolish” notion that a third intifada can be
prevented by force. Leave the scare tactics to the likes of Netanyahu, Defense
Minister Moshe Ya’alon, or even former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi,
said Levy. What this country needs is a radical change of direction.
It sounds so funny,” concluded Levy, “and
it’s so sad.”
21 August
Herzog responded, bristling at Levy’s
accusation of cliché when Levy himself “has been singing the same song for
years, publishing the same article and the same text, twice and sometimes three
times a week… Levy has been a one-trick pony since way back in the 1990s.”

Herzog wrote that leaders today have a
different set of options than those of the nineties ­– ISIS, Hamas, Iran – all
of these groups have led Herzog and the camp he represents to embrace the tough
“Only when I and the leadership of the huge
camp I represent prove that in defense of the country, on security issues and
in times of danger, we always side with the state… will we be able to win the
trust of the majority in Israel.”

“Levy used to be a Zionist,” wrote Herzog.
I’m no longer sure that he is one.”

23 August
The gauntlet had been thrown. Levy took it
up, proudly acknowledging the “one trick pony” label as a badge of honor and
shooting back with his own endearment for the Zionist Union leader: “Rambo
Herzog, the fighter of terror.”
In snide sarcasm, Levy apologized for “boring
Herzog by harping on the occupation.
“I’ve been trying to report on its crimes
for 30 years or so. It’s an obsession of sorts: A person is convinced that his
country has a malignant disease and that no issue is more crucial,”
wrote Levy. 
“I’m sorry if that bores Herzog, but it’s a cruel reality for millions of
people. It’s the reality that hasn’t changed, not the person writing about it.”
Levy detailed the many iterative solutions
to the occupation he has believed in over the years, from “the Jordanian
to Oslo to, now, boycotts and a “single democratic state.”

Herzog and his ilk, suggested Levy, had
better work to end the occupation if they expect writers like Levy to stop
writing about it.
26 August
Herzog turned the tables in his second
response to Levy within a week, calling the writer a fear-mongering messianic
closer politically to the likes of Uri Ariel (or even Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh)
than the Israeli left.
“In his article, Levy suggests that we turn
out the lights on the Zionist project,”
wrote Herzog. “Levy doesn’t have to
join Habayit Hayehudi. He can easily skip over the party headed by Naftali
Bennett and land straight in the lap of Uri Ariel’s Tekuma. Ariel wants the
same thing — one state from the Jordan to the sea and one man, one vote, and
may the best man win.”

The pragmatic camp that Herzog represents,
alternatively, aspires for security for Israel as well as for Palestinians.
“And today there is a window of opportunity
for an agreement, both regional and vis-a-vis the Palestinians, that must not
be missed,”
he wrote. “It’s an opportunity not only for negotiations, but for a
real agreement.”

27 August
In the last installment of the open
correspondence so far, Levy wrote to Herzog that the only thing he himself has
in common with Ariel is “the vast gulf between us,” noting that the agriculture
minister’s vision of a united Israel is anything but democratic. It is Herzog,
Levy wrote, who stands on Ariel’s side of the line.
“If you scrape off the layers of makeup,
you’ll find within him the same nationalist foundation; the belief that in this
land there is one nation with inborn privileges that exceed those of the other
nation living here,”
wrote Levy. “It starts with the Law of Return, which is
for Jews alone; and winds through “security needs,” which are always only the
security needs of the Jews, and ends with the demand that the Palestinian state
be demilitarized; it all screams of privilege.”

The choice, says Levy, is simple: Israel
can choose to be a democracy first or a Jewish state first – everything else is
petty bickering.

there is no chance that the left-center will be weaned off its way of doing things;
let it ask itself: Why is there Palestinian terror, and what is Israel Defense
Forces activity if not terror?
Gideon Levy Aug 19, 2015 6:28 PM
Isaac Herzog returned from Ramallah loaded
down with impressions, and hastened to write a nice composition, with good
penmanship and without his parents’ help. “Don’t worry, don’t be afraid. Be
was the title of the manifesto.
The rest was even more embarrassing and
childish (the only thing missing was “we returned home tired but happy,”). But
within the sea of cliches, one sentence stood out: “We must prevent a third
intifada. That means an uncompromising war against terror, and on that issue
I’m even more extreme than [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”

Aha, the “war against terror.” Herzog will
be “more extreme than Netanyahu.” He will prevent a third intifada.
Herzog owes an accounting for his cliches:
What did he mean when he said that he would be even more extreme than Benjamin
Netanyahu? Even more violent? Netanyahu is responsible for killing thousands of
Palestinians in Gaza, and he will kill tens of thousands? During Netanyahu’s
tenure there are 400 administrative detainees, and with Herzog there will be a
thousand? Netanyahu is evicting thousands of people from their homes in the
blazing sun, and Herzog will evict tens of thousands? Herzog roared on the way
from Ramallah – who will not be afraid.
That’s not what he meant, the spokespeople
will explain. Herzog only wanted to say that he will be tough in the war
against terror, because without that it’s impossible to win elections – and
besides, he’s in favor of “the process,” after all. But terror will never be
eliminated with force, and the left-center will never learn anything and never
forget anything.
The next intifada will not be prevented by
means of anyone’s threats, including Herzog’s, but only through a radical
change in direction, which won’t take place here of itself.
Herzog’s “process” certainly doesn’t fit
that description. Cancelling administrative detentions, for example, would
prevent terror more it can be prevented by elite army units. But Herzog and his
friends have nothing to say about that. Is the Zionist Union in favor of
administrative detention? Against? Again they are only looking for the strong
man who will convince the Israelis that he will defeat terror and the Arabs in
general, and once again they’re banging their heads against the wall.
Apparently there is no chance that the
left-center will be weaned of its way of doing things; let it ask itself: Why
is there Palestinian terror, and what is Israel Defense Forces activity if not
terror? It can’t let go of the old notion that it must convince the public that
it will screw the Arabs the way the right does.
If the leader of the opposition still
thinks that a popular uprising is suppressed by force, that a “process” is
sufficient to stop such an uprising, if he doesn’t propose a revolutionary
change of values and perceptions – what do we need all this for? We’ve had more
than enough of this species.
In order to “defeat terror by force” we
have Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. To prevent the next intifada by means of
foolish threats – “We’ll harm anyone who tries to harm us,” and “We’re prepared
for any scenario” – Netanyahu will suffice. In order to explain to the
Palestinians that they can achieve what they want only by force – with
kidnappings, hunger strikes and Qassam rockets, never through negotiations –
there’s no need for Herzog. They’ve known that for a long time.
And even in order to present a left with a
security-oriented facade we don’t need Herzog – former Chief of Staff Gabi
Ashkenazi is already warming up on the ropes, in the role of the most desperate
hope that the left has ever invented. The general of Operation Cast Lead, the
man without (known) opinions, who has never said anything about anything, he is
the great and only hope of the moderate camp in Israel. Can you believe it? Why
Ashkenazi? Because he’s the only one with a chance to bring down Netanyahu. And
why bring down Netanyahu if we’ll get Ashkenazi?
And until the propitious time arrives and
Ashkenazi hatches from the egg, Herzog will play Ashkenazi’s role. He will be
the commander of the left’s anti-terrorism unit. He will threaten, he will
eliminate enemies, he will promise “an uncompromising war.”
It sounds so funny, and it’s so sad.

Isaac Herzog Aug 21, 2015 2:05 PM
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog responds to
criticism levelled against him by Haaretz’s Gideon Levy, arguing that making
peace also means fighting terror – not just accepting the Palestinian narrative
hook, line and sinker.
Abbas and Herzog, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 18, 2015.Reuters
It’s always amusing to read Gideon Levy
criticizing someone else for using cliches (“The left’s counter-terrorism
unit,” Haaretz, August 20). After all, Levy is the expert in the use of
cliches. He has been singing For the same song for years, publishing the same
article and the same text, twice and sometimes three times a week:
“Occupation, occupation, occupation and once again occupation; only the
Jews are to blame and only the Palestinians are right.” Levy has been a
one-trick pony since way back in the 1990s.
My meeting with Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) this week lasted for an hour and 15 minutes. We sat
privately and conducted a penetrating, detailed and in-depth conversation. Too
much time has passed since an Israeli leader sat with Abu Mazen and spoke to
him directly and at length. He is afraid of the unbridled terror. He is doing
quite a lot to combat it, but is very concerned by the fact that we may be on
the brink of a third intifada, and that it is liable to erupt on his watch.
Under his responsibility. He is particularly concerned by the stagnation and by
the lack of hope on the diplomatic front.
I described my viewpoint to him; I
explained that I want to take take my party back to the path of late Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which means a tough and uncompromising war against
terror, and at the same time, a courageous diplomatic initiative. As I told Abu
Mazen, in the war against terror I really am more extreme than Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu. His policy of speaking to Hamas and isolating Abu Mazen will lead to
Abu Mazen’s resignation and to Hamas taking control over Judea and Samaria.
Hamastan five minutes from Kfar Sava. That’s not how to fight terror and its
On the other hand, I see a rare regional
opportunity, with other countries in this region – which are also threatened by
the ISIS crazies and the Iranian sweet talk – as well as Israel and Gaza, which
want to continue the quiet and are willing to think about rehabilitation and
calm, have a shared interest in moving towards direct peace negotiations
between Israel and the PA. That’s the key, and that should be encouraged. We
must not award a prize to Hamas, but rather foster calm and turn the PA into a
partner – and there are plenty of means available of doing so.
Towards the end of the burning-hot summer
there is such a moment, in which it is possible to restore hope to the region.
But people like Levy are stuck in the 1990s
and fail to understand that it’s impossible today sit down around the
negotiating table with the Palestinians and to emerge, locked in a brotherly
embrace, moments later with a with full peace agreement that features a return
to the 1967 lines and a division of Jerusalem. Levy writes as though he hasn’t
been here in recent years. In a previous article he mocked me because my wife
and I gave our blessings to the cadets in a pilots’ training course. Levy used
to be a Zionist. I’m no longer sure that he is one.
After Gaza fell into the hands of Hamas,
and the State of Israel was attacked with missiles, and tunnels were dug under
dining rooms on kibbutzim in the south, it’s no longer possible to continue
talking only about a bilateral agreement with the Palestinians. We have to talk
about a trailblazing diplomatic move, supported by the moderate countries in
the region.
Levy thinks that the Palestinians are
always right. That the terror attacks against us are their natural right. That
a boycott against the Jews is the imperative of the hour and that the time has
come for U.S. President Barack Obama to impose the same kind of sanctions that
he imposed on Iran on Israel. In effect Levy, like the messianic right, is
leading to a state with an Arab majority between the Jordan and the
In contrast, the huge camp that I lead
loves Israel and wants a Jewish and democratic state, existing alongside a
Palestinian state in security and peace. Only when I and the leadership of the
huge camp I represent prove that in defense of the country, on security issues
and in times of danger, we always side with the state, and only afterwards do
we have time for debates and disagreements. Only then will we be able to win
the trust of the majority in Israel and to bring these ideas to fruition.
I believe that leadership is always
obligated, while adhering to its values, to make a tactical recalculation. Not
to close its eyes in the face of what is happening – and always to be daring
enough to confront a changing reality and to try to change the present and the
head of the Zionist Union comes across as someone who is not up to the
challenge of fighting the most right-wing, nationalist government in the
history of Israel.
Gideon Levy May 21, 2015 4:44 AM

An election campaign billboard shifts between images of Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, right, and Likud Party leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv, March 3, 2015.AP
From the outset, he shouldn’t have been the
Zionist Union’s candidate for prime minister; like his counterpart Miliband, he
should have resigned the day after his defeat. But even having come this far,
he should quit his post – yesterday, today or tomorrow at the latest – in the
wake of the documentary that exposed his conduct during the election campaign.
Anyone who believed before the election
that he was the man, anyone who believed after the election that he should stay
on and continue leading, ought to watch Anat Goren’s film “Herzog,” the first
part of which aired two days ago on Channel 10’s “Hamakor” program. In order to
truly understand that while Isaac Herzog may be a fine person, a pleasant,
decent, intelligent and honest conversationalist, this is not the material from
which another prime minister, leader or statesman will ever emerge.
The day after the election, or at the
latest, the day after the screening of “Herzog,” this thing has to end. Herzog
isn’t right for the job. He never was right for the job – as the film clearly
The Herzog of “Herzog,” like the real-life
Herzog, is not suited to be prime minister, or opposition leader for that
matter. Some people reached this conclusion long ago, but even those who kept
on believing couldn’t deny what they have been seeing on their television
“So what do you want? Can you tell me
Herzog asks in one of the many low points documented in the course of
his campaign. “Can someone come here and guide us? Can someone explain to us
what’s going on?”
he’s heard saying at another embarrassing moment, sounding so
helpless it’s almost pitiful. Really, where should he stand? Next to the cedar
tree his grandfather planted in Gush Etzion? But the sun is in his face and
anyway you can’t see the monument from there. So what should he do? And what
are we? Maybe he ought to mention Barack Obama in his speech? Or maybe not? And
maybe there should be some water on the podium? Or maybe not? And maybe he
should leave the speech on the podium? Or maybe not?
Ridiculous politicians who become puppets
in the hands of their media advisors are nothing new around here. We’ve seen
plenty of strutting and blustering media consultants before. But the
combination of [media consultant] Reuven Adler and Isaac Herzog is the most
farcical of all: The arrogant and euphoric statements that keep spouting from
the mouth of the consultant-sorcerer, legs up on the table and overflowing with
self-importance, juxtaposed with the utter helplessness of the puppet he is
trying to manipulate with his supposedly magic strings, is just too much.
Nothing good has ever come of combining a weak and desperate politician with a
haughty personal advisor. When will we ever see a politician here who won’t
listen to advisers?
The man who said, “I have the feeling that
I am leading a large camp”
and that he “sees steps ahead,” shouldn’t ever have
been running for a job that was too big for him. But the statesman-prophet from
Tzahala didn’t give up. That may be his tragedy, or that of his party too. Now
it’s become a farce, and soon it will turn into a catastrophe.
And this is how it is: The most right-wing,
nationalist and religious government in the state’s history just came into
power by a slim majority. Its components are almost beyond surreal, its
statements are already beyond bad taste. A government whose education minister
explains that “Education is aspiring for every boy and girl to love the
is one for the scrapbooks: This is the kind of talk that once was
heard in Nicolae Ceaucescu’s Romania, maybe also in Enver Hoxha’s Albania. 
government is being run by a prime minister whose agenda has expired: Iran is
out of the picture, as is the chance for the two-state solution. All that’s
left for him is to undermine the regime, as is the way with rulers who stay in
power for too long.

And who do we have to contend with all of
this? Isaac Herzog. Leader of the opposition. Grandson of the rabbi and son of
the president. This farce has to end.