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Eureka: An air-conditioner side chat on Israel
by Jay Gutman
2018-07-08 06:45:40
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There's been a shift in global politics. It used to be what I like to call the three fronts that were doing politics until the late 1990s: the nationalist front, the social or socialist front and the religious front. Not just in Israel but around the world. The nationalist front existed everywhere and tended to identify with the right wing, conservatives if you want to call them that. The socialist front was the labor or liberal front. And the religious front existed mostly in the Muslim world but also in places like Southeast Asia, India, Europe and many other places, and of course Israel.

isr00000001_400Today you have three fronts as well. But there has been a small shift. You have the nationalist front, the religious front, and something that shifted from a labor front to something of a minority identity or social exclusion front. That is you have the nationalist front which represents the social majority, the religious front, still present in the Muslim world, and labor has become something of a party less concerned with labor rights, and more concerned with LGBT rights, ethnic minority rights, feminist rights and in the specific case of Israel would be LGBT rights, Ethiopian rights, refugee rights, feminist groups and anti-religious coalitions or organizations. In this air-conditioner side chat I'll discuss how this plays out, along with something about Palestine, Iran, something about the economy and the new capitalism, and something about the future of politics. 

The new Israeli politics

Israel has something of a mixture of Arab parties, religious parties, nationalist parties, and crytpo-labor parties. The crypto-labor parties are searching for themselves, mainly for sources of cash, and don't understand that when those used to come from the Histadrut (Israel's largest labor union) Labor parties need to knock on the doors of LGBT organizations, feminist organizations, ethnic minorities organizations and refugees welcome organizations and the like. That is the source of funding has shifted from construction workers and blue collar workers to workers from all walks of life, some very rich, others very poor, but who strongly identify with their identity, sexual orientation or with those who seem to be excluded from society. It's only natural that LGBT or feminist organizations will tend to identify strongly with all those excluded from social life or who risk exclusion from social life.

Naturally, in Israel as elsewhere, convinced nationalists tend to strongly dislike this new cryto-labor platform. Indeed, most people tend to think solving LGBT or feminist problems will not solve more pressing economic or security questions. When the labor party was about defending worker's rights, at least there was some kind of consensus around the economy and security issues. But with Iran trying to get nuclear weapons, I don't see how political parties can have all social issues and no security issues on their platform. After all, crypto-labor parties around the world, and Israel is not exception, tend to be pacifist, anti-war, almost sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, almost pro-BDS.

In Israel like elsewhere, when politics was about an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, pubs, restaurants and cafés were talking all politics and little else. But every since labor parties have moved from workers' issues to more colorful social issues, in Israel as in the rest of the world, there seems to be a great deal of apathy with political life.

Palestine, one-state, two-state or three-state solution

There's one aspect of Parlestinian policy that few think about or discuss. When Hamas won the elections in 2006, Europe, North America and of course Israel protested the result, but did not directly interfere with the result. That is the reaction was “you elected a terrorist organization to power, OK, now that's an excuse for us to cut funds because we won't give funds to terrorist organizations, nor will we talk to Hamas, but do as you please.” Now the organization that was the least happy with Hamas' election was Fatah, and the two organizations bickered almost to the point of civil war.

Now in the event of a Palestinian state. You would need a government. You would probably need elections. If you have the kind of political culture where neither organization accepts the outcome of the election and wants to play fair game, where the Fatah and Hamas will barely talk to each other much less agree the share anything, why is everyone talking about a two-state solutionn? With the current state of events, soon enough you might have a three-state or four-state solution, one for Hamas, one for Fatah, and perhaps one for the Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah or so. This is when when I mentioend returning the West Bank to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt, at least the Palestinas will be able to agree on some form of political unity. But of course Jordan does not want the West Bank and Egypt does not want Gaza, nor do the Palestinians want to be subjects of Gaza or the West Bank. All I can say is the Palestinan situation is far from solved.

The Iranian cause

One thing I tend to forget to mention about Iran is this is how they see the world. To them poverty's not a problem, as long as people pray 5 times a day and will go to heaven there is nothing to be ashamed of or to fix. So to them poverty or economic development is not the key issue, going to heaven is the key issue, and Israel and the non-Muslim world are a kind of Sodom and Gomorrah where people don't pray 5 times a day and won't go to heaven and all that wealth and economic development is vain. So they see life as kind of a mission where it's the duty of Iran to destroy the Sodom and Gomorrahs of the world. Europe does not seem to take this seriously, because it does not seem to understand this very nature of the regime. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, or even Egypt for that matter are mildly secularist, something Iran is not.

Is there such a thing as too much capitalism?

Zionism started of with nationalist Zionism and labor Zionism. Labor Zionists tended to strongly identify with the view that Israel should be some sort of social welfare state with free education, free healthcare, free housing in some cases and very minor deviations in pay among Israelis. Now that over the years, and for good reason, deregulation has been the norm, higher education is no longer free, healthcare comes at a certain cost, housing is pricy, the question I tend to like to ask is that over the years capitalism has meant a certain number of CEOs keeping the company profits in their pockets rather than reinvesting them in the company or in society. It's true of the rest of the world, also true in Israel.

So the main question about capitalism, and I'm a convinced capitalist, is how do you marry capitalism with corporate responsibility. How do you divorce CEOs as people and individuals from CEOs as corporate leaders who work for the corporation. That is capitalism is maximizing corporate profits, maximizing personal profits helps. But when we all work hard to lift the corporation up, and that in the end the CEO keeps all the corporate profits to himself or herself, is that really capitalism?

Conclusion: who are going to be Israel's leaders 20, 30 years from now?

There are three possibilities for who might lead Israel 20 or 30 years from now. One possibility is to have religious of crypto-religious parties gain ground and take over, where you will have the religious leaders take over. The other possibility is that the nationalist parties might keep gaining ground and perhaps the country will still have nationalist leaders, perhaps even do away with the parliamentary system and become a presidential system like Turkey did. Or perhaps you might have the Labor parties reform themselves, the whole excluded social minorities thing might become a thing of the past, and labor politics will be back in the game. The question is who are the labor parties going to defend. The government is no longer the largest employer, and there are few companies in Israel with over 1,000 people, most companies are SMEs. So nationalists at the helm of Israel is a very likely scenario, but they might have to share power with the ever-growing religious parties while smaller social exclusion parties might also be on the map. Another up and coming political movement: the Arab parties, as it is very unlikely they will have an unholy alliance with the nationalist parties.

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