Influence Of Israel's Leftist Peace Movement Wanes Support for traditional left-of-center parties is slipping dramatically, according to a recent poll. And the mostly right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflects a fundamental shift in Israeli politics.
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Influence Of Israel's Leftist Peace Movement Wanes

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Influence Of Israel's Leftist Peace Movement Wanes

Influence Of Israel's Leftist Peace Movement Wanes

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

In Israel, political parties that lean to the left are in trouble. A recent poll shows them slipping dramatically. And analysts say the peace movement in Israel is in decline. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports that the mostly right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflects a fundamental shift in Israeli politics.

LOURDES GARCIA: A recent poll shows that if elections were held today, left-leaning Labor, the party that used to control Israeli politics, would only get nine seats in the 120-member Knesset. Left-leaning parties in all would only get about 47 seats. And the group that has been making the biggest inroads here is Yisrael Beiteinu, or Israel Our Home, led by current Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman.

MONTAGNE: In a way, he's reflecting the Israeli mood more than I do, more than the Labor does.

GARCIA: Daniel Ben Simon is a member of parliament for the Labor Party.

MONTAGNE: I have witnessed it from the parliament. I'm sitting next to the people from the Yisrael Beiteinu Leiberman party. It's their Knesset. It's their time. It's their period. They are moving within the Knesset as if they were the owners of this place.

GARCIA: Analysts say there are several reasons why the rise of the right in Israel is no temporary phenomenon. The first is demographic. Israel's population is becoming more religious. Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews have bigger families. But crucially, the failure of the left's long push for peace with the Palestinians has gutted their support.

P: The Israeli peace coalition was subject to a tremendous defeat.

GARCIA: Political analyst Yaron Ezrahi from Hebrew University is a member of the intellectual left in Israel. He says the failure of the Oslo peace process, followed by the wave of suicide bombings that took place during the second Palestinian uprising, undermined Israelis' faith that there can be peace with the Palestinians. Finally, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the response from Palestinian militants there has only made the left-leaning party's case harder to make.

P: The slogan of the left - land for peace - was destroyed by the missiles that came from the place evacuated by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip, and it turned it into a land for missiles.

GARCIA: And so the political left in Israel, says Ezrahi, has lost its way. Labor is the only left-leaning party in Netanyahu's coalition, and observers say it has failed to sway the cabinet on crucial issues related to the peace process. While leftist political parties here are suffering, new grassroots leftist movements have sprouted up.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS)

GARCIA: Hillel Ben Sasson is an activist and post-graduate student.

MONTAGNE: We feel that the Israeli left, the Israeli partisan political left, has gone bankrupt. I mean, they're not activist enough. They're always apologetic, and they've not posed any kind of serious opposition. They're absolutely predictable.

GARCIA: So, says Ben Sasson, they have created their own movement that makes a point of having no connection with the traditional leftist parties.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS)

MONTAGNE: This movement and this struggle in Sheik Jarrah evolved out of a deep sense that if we don't do the work, nobody will do it for us. We cannot wait and expect that somebody would lead us as the younger generation, because nobody here is doing it. And we have to get up and start struggling and start, you know, creating Israel in a different voice.

GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro NPR News, Jerusalem.

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