For decades, the increasing radicalism of the political Left in the West has been swept under the rug.
In the U.S., for instance, Republicans were loath to fight an ideological or culture war with the Left. Republican leaders from George H.W. Bush through Mitt Romney figured that the media’s support for the Left on its journey to radicalization meant fighting an ideological battle would only hurt Republicans. Why walk into a fight you will lose?
With each passing year, the Left’s radicalization has grown deeper. By the time Donald Trump entered the presidential race in 2015, it was difficult to see a correlation between the basic ideals of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave and the Left’s view of America as an evil, racist land whose power and wealth had been derived through repression at home and aggression abroad.
One of the key components of Trump’s campaign and his subsequent governing style has been his willingness to call the Left out for its radicalism. Whether on immigration policy or standing for the Star Spangled Banner or pushing back against biased media coverage of his administration, Trump has no problem calling his political opponents out for their radicalism — in stark contrast to his predecessors.
For their part, rather than prove Trump wrong — by moderating their stance on border enforcement, for instance — Democrats have proven his point by calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Rather than demonstrate that they are not institutionally committed to overthrowing Trump by any possible means, liberal media organs are openly colluding to bring him down.
And the public is noticing. For all the talk of a blue wave in November, Trump’s approval ratings are either rising or holding steady, depending on the poll. The media, which in many ways is indistinguishable from the Democratic Party, have seen their credibility ratings fall to historic lows in the same period, and support for Democrats in generic polls is decreasing.
Something of this sort is happening in Israel today as well.
Over the past month, Israel’s political Left has adopted a political strategy in line with the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in turn, has taken a page from Trump’s playbook.
On July 19, Israel’s 120-member parliament, the Knesset, passed a law called the Nation State Law. The law was conceived and passed as what is called a Basic Law. Israel has no written constitution. Basic Laws have over the years received a status largely comparable to constitutional amendments. Although not legally required, Netanyahu insisted that the law pass with a majority of 61 votes. In the event, it passed with 62 in favor, 55 opposed.
Substantively, the Jewish Nation State Law is a nothingburger. It is an aggregation of previously passed laws and statutes. It defines Israel as the Jewish nation state, which it has been since its founding.
It says that Hatikva, which has been Israel’s national anthem for 70 years, is Israel’s national anthem.
It says Israel’s flag is Israel flag, and that Israel’s national symbol is Israel’s national symbol. It says unified Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It says that Hebrew is Israel’s official language.
And so on and so forth.
Indeed, the law itself is so unoriginal and unremarkable, this writer argued that the law was superfluous.
But it works out that this nothingburger was a stroke of political genius. It exposed the radicalization of Israel’s political Left like nothing else has ever done.
Rather than shrug their shoulders and vote in favor of an Israeli version of a Norman Rockwell painting, Israel’s political Left decided to join the Hamas- and PLO-aligned Arab parties who insist a law that simply asserts Israel’s national identity and anchors it in a quasi-constitutional statute is inherently bigoted and wrong.
This sort of behavior could have been expected from Israel’s far-Left. And indeed, Israel’s openly post-nationalist Meretz party actively opposes the law. But the leaders of Israel’s two center left parties – Labor/Zionist Union and Yesh Atid — led the charge.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni called the law — which does nothing more than codify in law the basic fact that Israel is the Jewish state — “discriminatory.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has insisted that the law that constitutionally anchors Israel’s national ethos contradicts Israel’s national ethos, and promised the next election will be decided on this issue.
Livni, for her part, declared, “The rules of the game have changed. If you [governing coalition parties] think you can keep calling us traitors and win the elections that way – this has ended.”
Politically speaking, they are right on one score. Their opposition has transformed the law into a major wedge issue.
Unfortunately for them, their action has also guaranteed that when Israelis vote in accordance with their values, they will vote to re-elect the current government and keep the Left far away from power for the foreseeable future.
To date, only one poll of public opinion on the law has been published. According to that poll, taken by the Walla Hebrew news site in the week following the law’s passage, 58 percent of Israelis support the law. Only 34 percent oppose it. Moderates — that is, swing voters — support the law 49 to 45 percent.
85 percent of right-wing voters support the law. Self-declared leftists oppose the law by a similar margin. But the problem for the center-Left is that while most self-identifying leftists oppose the law, most center-Left voters do not define themselves as leftists.
In 2015, for instance, only 12 percent of Israelis identified as leftists, while 62 percent identified as being aligned with the political Right.
Rather than suffice with declaring opposition to a law a large majority of the public supports, the center-Left parties doubled down. Their actions in the past three weeks have moved from the realm of bad politics to the realm of suicidal politics.
After declaring their opposition to the law, Livni, along with a group of far Left retired senior security law enforcement officials, lobbied Israel’s Druze minority to oppose the law.
The Druze, who are an offshoot of Shiite Islam, have distinguished themselves over the past seventy years as Israel’s most loyal minority community. Shortly after Israel was established, the leaders of the Druze community voluntarily subjected their sons to mandatory conscription in the Israel Defense Force.
With behind-the-scenes funding from an Israeli political pressure group funded by the anti-Israel New Israel Fund, the European Union, and the United Nations, leftist politicians and former senior security and law enforcement officials urged the Druze to break ranks with the government and lead the opposition to the bill.
As the Mida online Hebrew news magazine demonstrated, the purpose of that intervention was to divide the Druze along the left-right political continuum and mobilize leftist Druze activists and politicians as a means to attack and delegitimize the Israeli Right and the government in the name of the entire Druze community.
The move, which culminated in a major demonstration at Tel Aviv’s central thoroughfare on August 4, petered out once the headlines moved on. The public, which was initially highly sympathetic to the Druze protests, grew increasingly perturbed by the initiative as Druze representatives, incited by leftist activists, rejected a generous offer by Netanyahu to develop Druze towns and economic prosperity and legislate a separate law stipulating the unique place the community maintains in Israeli society.
Unfortunately for the political Left, which was already garnering significant criticism for the role its leaders played in inciting the Druze against the law, the Druze protest wasn’t the last word in the public demonstrations against the law.
On August 11, the baton passed from the Druze and the leftist political parties to the Arab political parties. In a display of extremism and hatred for Israel rarely seen before, thirty thousand Israeli Arabs and their supporters from the far-Left gathered in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night. Waving PLO flags, they marched through central Tel Aviv calling out the PLO/Hamas slogans, “With Blood and Fire We Will Liberate Palestine, and, “A million martyrs are marching on Jerusalem.”
Although few members of the Labor party and no members of Yesh Atid were to be seen at the demonstration, the public had had it with the protests that they instigated. As Netanyahu said at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning, the demonstration in Tel Aviv Saturday night proved that the law which changes nothing was necessary.
In his words, as quoted by the Times of Israel, “Yesterday we saw PLO flags in the heart of Tel Aviv. We heard the calls: ‘With blood and fire we will redeem Palestine.’ Many of the demonstrators want to abrogate the Law of Return [which gives Jewish immigrants automatic Israeli citizenship], cancel the national anthem, fold up our flag and cancel Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and turn it – as their spokespersons said – into an Israeli-Palestinian state, and others say: A state of all its citizens.”
“It is for precisely this that we passed the nation-state law. We are proud of our state, our flag and our national anthem. Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. The individual rights of its citizens are anchored very well in the basic laws and other laws. Now it is clearer than ever that the nation-state law is also necessary… to ensure the future of the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. We passed this law and we will uphold it.”
In other words, the protest movement that the center Left politicians instigated against the law that codified Israel’s national foundations has placed the Netanyahu government in the position of defender of Israel’s very existence. The political opposition, from the center-Left to pro-Hamas Arab factions, is united in its opposition to the law that does nothing more than state the obvious.
The overwhelming majority of Israelis are hardcore patriots. They do not take well to people who undermine Israel’s national identity. Indeed, every leftist government in Israeli history has been elected by running on right-wing platforms. The battle the center-Left parties have led against the Jewish Nation State law has potentially doomed them to the political desert for the next generation.
This brings us back to Trump.
Israel’s current fight over the Nation State Law shows that as the Left throughout the Western world becomes ever more radicalized, Trump’s confrontational strategy for contending with the phenomenon is proving itself not only politically wise, but also vital for preserving the free nations of the Western world as a whole.
Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.