Can the Israeli Left Ever Win Again?

Not unless it gets rid of some very bad ideas

In the winter of 1973, having barely survived a coordinated Arab attack, Israel set out to understand why it had it had missed the many signs pointing toward pending Egyptian aggression. The answer it came up with was long and complicated, but it can be summarized in a single word that every Israeli knows well: Ha’Konseptsya, or the Concept.

Israel’s intelligence didn’t see the war coming because of the (mis)conception that Egypt would never risk war unless it had long-range missiles that could hit targets deep inside the Jewish State. The Friday before the war broke out, Israel Defense Forces intelligence officers compiled a document with 39 clauses, each pointing to a different piece of evidence for why an Egyptian invasion was only a matter of time. Their commanding officer, faithful to the Concept, added a 40th and final clause that argued that all evidence aside, the likelihood of war was minuscule. Less than 24 hours later, Egyptian and Syrian planes launched more than 750 sorties against Israeli targets in the north and in the south. Ha’Konseptsya was proven dead wrong.

What the Israeli left experienced this week in light of Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral triumph wasn’t merely a political setback. It was the shattering of another Concept, another firm worldview that ignored too many signs and relied too heavily on articles of faith. With Labor having delivered its most impressive showing in nearly two decades and yet still falling short, and with Meretz teetering on the brink of extinction, it may not be too much of a stretch to argue that this is the Israeli left’s darkest hour. If it is to survive, it needs to grapple with the Concept that led it astray…

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