For years, kibbutzes in Israel reliabley delivered the votes of their members to the left-leaning Labor Party (and its predecessors) in exchange for a guaranteed seat in the Knesset and (back in the days when Labor actually formed governments) a hand on the levers of the power. That decades-old wedding may be headed for divorce court.
News out of Israel suggests that the Kibbutz Movement is pissed off by a proposal, by new Labor head and former journalist Sheli Yachimovich, to combine the guaranteed seats for each the Kibbutz Movement and the Moshav Federation into a single seat that would represent the whole spectrum of Israel’s communal settlements. That doesn’t sit well with kibbutzniks, who always saw themselves as more ideologically committed as pioneers than the wishy-washy cooperative farmers on the moshavs—even if most kibbutzes have since “privatized” and operate far more like moshavs (or even gated country suburbs).
The article can’t resist a poke at the puzzling distinction between a kibbutz and a moshav—a huge difference to kibbutzniks but a bewildering hair-splitting to everyone outside their fences:
“An old joke best explains the distinction between a kibbutz and a moshav: if a kibbutznik had enough, he’ll probably move to a moshav (easier communal rules); but if a moshavnik had enough – he sure as heck is not moving to a kibbutz (even more stringent communal rules).”
Of course, the Labor Party bickering, amid polls that show right-wing Benyamin Netanyahu likely to form another coalition in the next election, only underscores the growing disfunction of the Israeli Left and the profound loss of influence (even among traditional allies) of the once powerful Kibbutz Movement.