It is very difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to fully comprehend the extent of power and control which the Labor Party, even when out of power, exercises over the day to day life here in Israel. Economically, the Labor Party, through its supporters and its alter-ego, the Histadrut, maintains a tight-fisted control of the Israel economy, and vigorously opposes all efforts of privatization that would threaten its virtual monopolistic hold on Israel's industry and commerce. On the other side of the coin, buttressed by their old socialist credo (taken from a socialism that otherwise is no longer believed in) of "protection of the worker," it is virtually impossible, particularly in the public sector, to fire any worker here in Israel. Unfortunately, the judiciary, whose members for the most part got their jobs through loyalty to the Labor Establishment, is supportive of such an unhealthy, and short-sighted protective policy. Thus, the normal changeover and housecleansing in public personnel that occurs after an election bringing a new party to power, does not happen in Israel. The old guard loyalists stay on, even in important governmental posts, making it extremely difficult for a new Administration to work effectively.
By design, the prior Labor Government was busy to the last day filling ambassadorial posts in important countries (such as Labor Minister Ora Namir resigning to take such an appointment in China) with its own Party loyalists, who could not be replaced by the new Netanyahu Government. But even on the more important level of key foreign service employees, and in the vital area of communications, the judiciary, and even in the army itself, there are scores of irreplaceable employees who owe their loyalties elsewhere, and who would not hesitate to place all kinds of subtle spokes into the wheels of the new "enemy Likud Administration." The recent post office scandal where Likud election literature was proven to be jettisoned and not delivered by Labor Party members who held high positions in the Post Office, is just another example of the malady.
Just an inkling of what is involved came to the fore indirectly by a strong but objective statement made by Uzi Landau, the newly appointed Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He accused some IDF (Israel Defense Forces) former and present officers of being yes men to the previous Labor Government, particularly concerning the Oslo Accords as it affects Hebron and other areas in Judea and Samaria. It was an open charge of politicization of the IDF by the former Labor-Meretz Government. The most bizarre proof of this, Uzi Landau said, was former chief of staff Ehud Barak, who suddenly became the Labor Government's Foreign Minister by conveniently retiring from the IDF; but it applied to other present IDF officers who indirectly expressed open support for the former Labor regime in many different ways by their actions and statements prior to, and during the last election campaign. Now any impartial observer of the Israeli scene knows that what Uzi Landau said is a fact. Nevertheless, the uproar that followed was typical standard Labor character assassination of an opponent who dares reveal their improprieties. The defamation of Landau by Labor lackeys was given widespread coverage by the media, still controlled by Labor.
Labor Lord Shimon Peres, himself was called upon by the media to lead the pack of wolves whose job it was to ravage this upstart Uzi. "Baseless, unfounded and scandalous" was what Peres said of Landau's charges. As usual, no attempt was made to answer Landau's charges on the merits. Typically, the media gave most of its time and space to the Labor and Meretz opposition on the issues raised. Thus, righteous indignation was afforded to Ehud Barak to defend the indefensible, and he showed his usual partisan nature by calling names and speaking in generalities. That stalwart, non-partisan defender of the faith, Yossi Sarid, (who thought he saw the Hand of God on election eve when he mistakenly believed that Meretz and Labor had triumphed), was called upon by the media to observe that the present relationship between the political and military echelons had "never been so bad." Although Sarid did not mean it that way, he in fact proved what Landau was saying had merit; that indeed the situation was bad because some in the military leadership were continuing to justify and promote the former Labor objectives, despite the new mandate given to Netanyahu in the elections. What is important to observe from this whole falsely created hullabaloo, is that forces that seek to change the Labor-Histadrut stranglehold on the economy, and Labor's control and inroads into every aspect of national life here in Israel, have an immense and difficult hurdle to overcome.
Today, it is the Army-Labor relationship that has been exposed. Tomorrow it may be the investigation why there is an invisible quota to the Labor controlled appointments to the Supreme Court, where Labor sees to it that not more than one religious Jew is allowed to be appointed to that Court at any one time; it is a never ceasing wonder that this abhorrent discriminatory practice by Labor is tolerated by Civil Rights groups and ordinary citizens here in Israel in silence, in this purported Jewish State. Certainly, any attack on Labor's improper use of the Histadrut to disrupt the operation of the new Government by the sudden emerging pattern of calling frequent strikes in an attempt to paralyze and disrupt the functioning of day to day life, will evoke similar vicious attacks by the Labor Establishment. The calling of such strikes was noticeably absent during the time Labor was formally in power. Similar attacks will be made on those critics who dare point out Labor's improper financing of its alter ego, the Histadrut, and some of its wealthy kibbutzim, from taxpayers' monies. So will unrestrained attacks be forthcoming on critics of Labor's artificial control of the economy and its labyrinth of administrative and other roadblocks in order to prevent the privatization of industry, and the competitiveness of a free economy.
So are their attacks on "enemies of peace" who dare attempt to show that Peres and Rabin acted illegally according to the then existing Israeli Law, to improperly enter into the Oslo Accords giving up great areas of the Jewish Homeland. A weak and partisan Supreme Court ducked making the required ruling on the merits, by arbitrarily claiming it was a "political question" and thus not within the aegis of the Supreme Court. So too, any attempt to address the burning question of the disloyalty of the Arab populace to a Jewish State, including that of the Arab representatives in the Knesset, will be met by a hostile Labor Establishment which recognizes its need of the support of the Arab sector to regain power. In the face of all of the above realities, it was truly a miracle that brought about the defeat of the powerful and mighty Labor giant.
The results of that election gives meaning and hope to all believing Jews. Despite the powerful Labor forces led by Shimon Peres, there is, as shown by the elections, a majority of Jews who still believe in a Jewish State. The battle for Jewish survival goes on. It is a battle, however, by new Jewish forces, made up in no small part by immigrants from America and elsewhere who are providing the ideology and faith that are needed to assure victory. That is why Labor is so antagonistic to these Zionist idealists, and particularly to Americans in general, whom they properly recognize as a threat to their continued anti-democratic stranglehold of this country. In the words of one of their new young leaders, Chaim Ramon, former head of the Histadrut, directed at such opposition: "We will crush them!"
By pointing out Labor's present shortcomings, it is not intended to downgrade the honor and appreciation owed Labor oriented Jews who by their courage in fighting the Arab wars against us, and by dint of their early hard physical work and sacrifices, made possible the creation of the State of Israel. They, along with others, brought about the blooming of a Land they found as a desert, and extended and restored the physical boundaries of ancient Israel as a result of the 1967 War.
However, the Israel of today is in serious jeopardy; the "Old Labor Guard" no longer has the faith in itself, nor the knowledge or belief in Judaism, and the historical rights of the Jewish People to this Land. Cleaving to their unwarranted claim that their past contributions entitle them to continued leadership of our People, they unfortunately have the power to obstruct and make extremely difficult the task of remaining a Jewish State; particularly is this true where Labor needing the Arab vote to get back the reins of Government, will bow to Arab demands in that regard. Such capitulation to the Arabs will be easy, because the Labor leaders of today have lost pride in themselves as Jews, and no longer identify with the aspirations of the Jewish People, nor do they possess the faith of their forefathers.
That is what makes Israel attractive today for those Jews who want to preserve their Jewish spiritual Heritage in the land of their forefathers. They wish to continue the romance which the Jewish People have had with this Promised Land for thousands of years. There is no place in the world today where your determined voice and individual input can make such a difference in the shaping of a nation, and rebuilding yourself as a Jew at the same time. In the face of powerful assimalationist Jewish forces working against their own survival as Jews, every voice in opposition is vital. It sounds very much like a call to Aliyah, and perhaps it is. At the very least it is a call for increased interest in Israel's future well being. This is still your country and the place where the action is, the center of the world so to speak; it is well worth investing your time, monies and energies to see that your share in the historical and spiritual Homeland is fully protected. It is the very least you owe to your children, and your children's children, and to the Jewish People everywhere.
Ruth Matar is founder and co-president of WOMEN FOR ISRAEL'S TOMORROW (WOMEN IN GREEN) Jerusalem August 11, 1996 P.O.B. 7352, JERUSALEM Tel. 02-249887 Fax: 02-245380