Every Friday morning, around seven, Mitzpe Ramon’s only paper delivery man hurls two weekend papers over the fence: the Hebrew-language HaAretz and the International New York Times (INYT). Their arrival is often announced by a loud thud, as the roll, heavy with its multiple supplements, bounces off my front door.
While enjoying my first coffee of the day, I always first open the HaAretz weekend magazine to read the column by the investigative journalist Nir Gontarz. Each week, Gontarz calls and ‘interrogates’ a personality who made the news earlier that week. His subjects seldom get away unscathed. I am sure that many of them get the shivers once they realize they are about to be grilled relentlessly by Gontarz.
Friday, January 29, however, was an exception.
“Hello Merav Michaëli! Earlier this week, you were elected chairperson of the Labor party, with an overwhelming majority of votes. I tried to recall when I called last someone for this column and started with offering congratulations and praise. It must have been more than six years ago. But here we are – my congratulations!”
Next, Gontarz expressed his hope that Michaëli, a parliamentarian since 2012, could become the big surprise of the upcoming election for the Knesset. That would be grand, as there a great need for a social-democratic party with a clear message.
Michaëli’s story is like a breath of fresh air. Finally, a politician with an authentic, heart-warming story that you can relate to. It’s a story about a party with a long, rich history. As small and possibly insignificant as it currently is, the party has registered members with voting rights, a party congress and proper institutions, and a well-defined party program.
In her conversation with Gontarz, Michaëli pointed out that a week later, the party members would be voting in so-called primaries to determine who would be on the Labor’s list for the upcoming elections. Unfortunately, across Israel’s political board, this democratic procedure is the exception rather than the rule.
In the days after Michaëli’s election as the new Labor chair, Labor registered some ten thousand new members. The primaries resulted in an exciting slate of young, talented candidates. In the first six positions on the list, three are women.
I was happily surprised with Michaëli’s election as the new Labor chair. She has principles and shows she has a backbone. She proved that immediately after her election as chair.
A strong-voiced opponent of the Netanyahu government, she demanded that Labor party ministers Itzik Shmuli and Amir Peretz leave their posts immediately or leave the party. Peretz announced, with a sharp jibe at Michaëli, that he would be leaving politics altogether. Shmuli resigned from the party and joined Benny Gantz’s Blue-White party the same day.
Many political analysts in other media shared Gontarz’s sentiment, but not all. Some were very harsh in their comments: “Michaëli has dug up the remains of the party from its grave.”
However, since Michaeli’s election and the publication of Labor’s new team running for the Knesset, the polls show that the party not only gets past the electoral threshold but even may be good for up to ten seats.
Why this song of praise to Michaëli?
Mostly because I am sick and tired of the current political parties.
I am sick and tired of a prime minister whose only concern is his political survival, is driven by his own interests, and heads a party that is rife with foul-mouthed rabble.
I am sick and tired of mayfly parties without an identity and a program. Parties that rise like giants with clay feet, only to crash shortly afterward, exploding into countless shards.
I am also deeply concerned that only three parties have a published party program – Meretz, Yisrael Beitenu, and Labor.
About a month ago, the mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Chulda’i, announced his new party, “The Israeli.” His number two was Avi Nissenkorn, until then Minister of Justice, for the Blue-White party, in Nethanyahu’s government!
A month later, the party is already gone, just like a long list of other hopeful politicians who thought that they had a chance of passing the electoral threshold in the polls.
I very much hope that Benny Ganz of Blue-White and Prof. Yaron Zelicha (The Economic Party) will have the decency to withdraw their parties before election day from the election slate. Whoever votes for them is wasting precious votes.
But one can only hope.
As the Germans says so aptly: Die Hoffnung stirbt am letzt.