The Israeli Elections: Strange, Important, or Nothing New?
Al-Etihad, UAE, March 27
Israelis went to the polls last week for the fourth time in two years. Certainly, they are strange elections, partly because some consider them very important, while others view them as insignificant. Perhaps the only suspense that this election entailed was whether or not Binyamin Netanyahu’s political life would come to an end. Given the fact that Netanyahu has been prime minister for 15 of the past 25 years — and for the last 12 years in a row — one could argue that these elections were really a referendum about him. Americans also followed the election closely. Netanyahu’s policies over the past 25 years have frustrated the Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Instead of cultivating bipartisan support for his country, the Israeli premier focused most of his energy on cultivating close partnerships with the key figures in the Republican Party, as well as neoconservative right-wing Christians. This partisanship only worsened over the past four years thanks to Netanyahu’s complete embrace of Donald Trump. Many liberal supporters of Israel in the United States believe, or rather hope, to see Netanyahu go. This is the only chance, in their eyes, to restore Israel’s ties with the Democratic Party. One thing that’s clear is that these elections had nothing to do with peace. Netanyahu and his political opponents alike all view Israel’s control over the occupied West Bank and the expansion of Israeli settlements as a legitimate policy. Therefore, the Palestinians will continue being deprived of a homeland regardless of who ultimately forms a government in Israel. The truth is that the Palestinians and their supporters are baffled when they hear and read commentators in the United States referring to these elections as elections that bring together the right-wing (Netanyahu and religious parties) against a coalition of what might be called the “center-left,” because the Israeli political scene has tilted so much to the right. The real Israeli left — the one that believes in ending the occupation and reaching peace with the Palestinians — doesn’t represent more than six seats in the Knesset. With such a small share of power, these voices are highly unlikely to influence the policies of the next government, whether it is led by Netanyahu or one of his rivals. What the Palestinians fear the most is a new so-called “liberal” government that will improve Israel’s public relations around the world without changing any of Israel’s stance towards the Palestinians. Israel will gain meaningful diplomatic breathing room while the Palestinians will remain oppressed and disenfranchised. – James Zogby (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)