Israel’s elections: more bad news for Palestinians and Europe’s Jews

Bibi wins the Israeli elections. I guessed he would. To me, the tight opinion polls, that were even giving a substantial advantage to the Zionist Camp, could not take into account a last minute, knee-jerk return to the Likud out of fear about: security, the ‘scary’ Palestinians, the rise of the Joint List, the uncertainty of a possible end to the current ‘comfortable’ status quo and more. Gideon Levy said the same thing today at 5:30 am on BBC World Service.

Anshel Pfeffer says ‘get used to the idea of Herzog as foreign minister’, but for Bibi to go for a unity government would surely require him to undergo a political conversion of staggering proportions. Has he really come this far in politics to now go against everything he has done to solidify Greater Israel? Is he not seeing this win as the last opportunity he has to make control over the West Bank permanent? Why would he saddle himself with a serious handicap by yoking himself to the Zionist Camp? He will be telling himself that all his tactics finally came good: sticking it to Obama, warning the world of the imminence of Iran dropping nuclear bombs on Israel, ruling out a Palestinian state, promising more Israeli settlements, demonising Palestinian Israelis as a fifth column, playing to the electorate’s worst, racist prejudices.

With Obama on his way out, the EU preoccupied with internal matters, Putin keeping ‘the West’ busy with his aggressive pursuit of a Russia first foreign policy, Isis taxing both the foreign and domestic security policies of so many diverse states, who will be able to stop Bibi continuing to consolidate and strengthen the de facto single state?

Whether we should be thankful for it or not, one thing we certainly get from this election result is clarity: the Palestinians will know what to expect, European Jews will know what to expect, the Obama administration will know what to expect, the entire population of Israel will know what to expect. Yet the consequences of the stasis this implies are far more unpredictable. Change was expected. Now there’ll be none, it’s as if a vacuum has suddenly appeared in the centre of the polity. And as the old cliche goes, ‘nature abhors . . .’ Filling it could be a third intifada, as Palestinian anger understandably erupts. It could be another major Israeli military assault, with huge casualties and the inevitable fallout in anti-Jewish hostility for Europe’s Jews. It could be a pre-emptive strike of some kind on Iran. It could be formal annexation of Area C of the West Bank. And it could be a major growth in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement: more action and a widening of the basis of support for the campaign.

Equal rights for all seems to be further away than ever. But without a viable statist solution of any kind, the equal rights agenda as the basis for achieving real change gains added importance and legitimacy.

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5 Responses to Israel’s elections: more bad news for Palestinians and Europe’s Jews

  1. Susan England says:

    I think this result it a big step backwards for the Middle East. I was very disappointed to hear the result this morning.

  2. Agnes says:

    My heart is broken. I was so hopeful that Israel and the Palestinians would have a chance (small as it might be) with this ogre gone. Not to be! I so agree with your post and your perspective. Keep them coming! Thanks!

  3. Antony says that he guessed that Netanyahu would win the election. Perhaps he did but in an article for the Weekly Worker I was one of the few who put their cards on the table with an article The Right & Far Right Will Almost Certainly Win the Israeli Elections (unexpurgated).

    But it’s not a question of who was right but why I predicted that the Right would win. It was not a question of guessing. Labour Zionism, to which Antony had a childhood attachment and still has a fondness for, is a busted flush. It has served its political purpose. It laid the basis for Begin’s victory in 1977 and as Ze’ev Sternhell wrote, it is difficult to identify one social grouping that enthusiastically supports it.

    I agree with Ali Abunimah when he says that Netanyahu’s victory is the best outcome. It means that the West has to confront its support for the war criminals in Tel Aviv. The election of Livni and Herzog would have clouded that, raised hopes but have done nothing for those who need it most – the Palestinians. Consider:

    Livni is also the war criminal behind the attack on Gaza in 2008/9. Some 1400 civilians were killed. In the peace talks (see the Palestinian Papers, Clayton Swisher) she repeatedly proposes swapping Arab towns and areas of Israel for the settlements. She is as much a devotee of a Jewish state as Netanyahu.

    What of Herzog? Is he just a traditional social democrat? Hardly. He campaigned on social issues but kept well clear of the settlements which he has vowed to maintain. His party voted to support the banning of Haneen Zoabi. He criticised Netanyahu in a video for going soft on Hamas and not hitting Gaza hard enough or early enough. 2,200 dead in Operation Protective Edge was not good enough for him.

    I know Antony does not like the comparisons but when you see Israeli mobs chanting ‘death to the Arabs’ or a demonstration of hundreds of Israelis outside a wedding reception of an Arab male and a Jewess you are reminded of Europe in the 1930’s and Germany in particular. Zionism is playing itself out in Lieberman’s remarks about taking an axe and beheading Israeli Arabs. Ayelet Shaked speaks for many when talking of exterminating Palestinian women so that they won’t give birth to ‘little Palestinian snakes’. All this accompanised by frightening military power.

    We should be grateful that Netanyahu’s victory has at least provided clarity.

    • Tony: I’m very happy that you express your views on my blog, but I object to you misrepresenting me by claiming to know what I feel on certain matters. What my ‘childhood attachment’ to Labour Zionism has to do with anything beats me. And it’s completely untrue to say that I ‘still have a fondness for it’. I have no time whatsoever for Labour Zionism. It’s dead. As for not liking comparisons with the 1930s, I don’t believe I ever said any such thing. What I have said is that loose and unthinking parallels with the Nazis or the Holocaust are very unhelpful. They debase discussion about very important matters. But if there is good evidence for making such comparisons, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to make them. For example, when people were making comparisons between the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the Warsaw ghetto, I did not find this unacceptable.

      As to the substance of what you write, I do not lament the failure of the Zionist Camp to achieve success in these elections. I never expressed support for them, never believed that they would, in reality, be any different from the right in their fundamental approach to the occupation and the rights of the Palestinians, and I always thought that Bibi would come out on top. But if you seriously think that the clarity we get with having Likud back leading a coalition will mean that the ‘West has to confront its support for the war criminals in Tel Aviv’, I suggest this is wishful thinking. The West has too much invested in maintaining the fiction of a 2-state-based peace process that confronting Bibi et al. with anything more than a polite rebuke or two is unlikely in the extreme. The only external actor that could have any serious impact on what Israel does is the USA–and we know what a complete hash Obama has made of any opportunities he has had to make Israel change course. Any hope that he’ll do things differently in his last months in office is forlorn.

      • Antony: I’ve only just seen your reply hence the lateness of this reply. I certainly didn’t intend to misrepresent your views but from what I recall from your book ‘The Making & Unmaking of a Zionist’ your description of your experiences on the Kibbutz and with Labour Zionism were very much anecdotal but didn’t ever come to grips with its ideology.

        Of course I’m happy to accept that you believe that Labour Zionism is dead and that you have no time for it, but in that case I’m even more puzzled by your original assertion re Netanyahu having Herzog as foreign minister that ‘for Bibi to go for a unity government would surely require him to undergo a political conversion of staggering proportions. Has he really come this far in politics to now go against everything he has done to solidify Greater Israel?’ This suggests, if not illusions in Labour Zionism, that you see it has considerable political differences with Likud, whereas I would see those differences as being, at best, tactical and having more to do with PR than any principled differences.

        Again I’m happy to accept what you say about comparisons between Nazi ideology and practice and Israel’s actions and Zionism. The only reason I mentioned this was because I recall, and my memory is hazy on this now, that a post of mine quite some time ago was redacted because I made such a comparison. Having always taken particular care not to make loose or unhelpful analogies I therefore made certain assumptions.

        I do however think that the differences which have opened up with the Obama administration over the question of 2 states and also the ‘peace process’ has more substance than you are giving credit for. The reasons are complicated, not least the clear divergence of views over Iran (indeed the differing interests of Israel and the USA) which is manifesting itself in tacit support for Al Qaeda and ISL by Israel.

        I’m sorry if you thought I was misrepresenting you and I’m happy to accept what you say in that regard.

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