Magazine article Tikkun

MASH DOWN BABYLON; I Dream of Ideology

Magazine article Tikkun

MASH DOWN BABYLON; I Dream of Ideology

Article excerpt

FOR MANY LEFT-WING OBSERVERS, IT WAS THEIR worst nightmare come true. A brand new political party without a platform was polling higher in election surveys than any of its long-entrenched competitors. Out of either disenchantment or desperation, the majority of Israelis indicated that they were willing to put their nation's fate in the hands of the unknowable. Some pundits even went so far as to argue that the public's preference for Kadima was a sign of the collapse of Israel's party system. Rejecting every parliamentary list as unsatisfactory, Israelis weren't so much placing their faith in a non-existent alternative as they were rejecting politics altogether.

To more conservative commentators, Kadima's popularity signaled a new political sensibility that had taken root in the wake of the Disengagement's success. Combining the Left's historical antipathy towards the Occupation, the settlers, and religion with a neoliberal social agenda and a conservative outlook on security matters, Kadima's growing legion of enthusiasts was evidence of a growing centrist consensus overtaking Israel's radically polarized political sphere. Rejecting such ideologies as Right and Left as outdated and extreme, this phenomenon gives every indication that the average Israeli voter has finally come of age.

Neither analysis is entirely wrong. In a perverse way, each complements the other. The first evinces a well-founded fear of a disillusioned protest voter who, bludgeoned by terrorist violence, government corruption scandals, and declining social services, has had every ounce of idealism squeezed out of them and is thus willing to back any party capable of changing the status quo. The second imagines an increasingly commonplace, middle-class Israeli desire for a Third Way liberal party (not unlike Tony Blair's New Labor) that understands the needs of high-tech labor and emphasizes market-based solutions to social problems. Both kinds of voters, regardless of their differences, inevitably collaborate with each other to bring about the election of the same political party.

Clearly, Israel's pre-election mood is complicated. As accurate as both of these interpretations are, the problems with them are even more important than the phenomenon that they describe. …

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