Takeaways From The Israeli Election

The Israeli elections are over, and the outcome largely matched the predictions. The Blue and White coalition amassed enough votes to match Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, but only Likud has a path to assembling a governing coalition. Many pundits tried—and largely succeeded—to generate interest in an election that was a nearly foregone conclusion from the start, with only an unlikely combination of long shots offering a sliver of hope that the Benny Gantz-led center-right opposition to Likud could eke out a narrow victory.

This is familiar territory for Netanyahu, for he has faced races just as tight as this one several times in the past. In both 1996 (in a direct election for prime minister) and in 2015, it looked for a time like Netanyahu would not get the most votes. In 2009, he didn’t, but Tzipi Livni, whose Kadima party got the most seats, was unable to cobble together a governing coalition.

This time, Netanyahu may have ended up in a tie with Gantz at 35 seats each, but the right wing and religious parties emerged with a distinct majority. He’ll need to do some wheeling and dealing to appease every party he wants in the government, but it’s a trick he’s pulled off many times before. The new government will, once again, be the most right wing in Israel’s history. But this time, the length of the new government’s tenure will depend more on Netanyahu’s legal troubles than on the political dynamics of the coalition. Read more at LobeLog

Ignoring Arab Voters

In this week’s article at Souciant, I examine the lack of political power of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Though they have the right to vote just like any Israeli, as Israel endlessly reminds us, the power of that vote in the real world is negligible, and not just for the reasons many disillusioned voters feel. It’s about the marginalization of Israel’s Arab sector more broadly.

Avraham Burg and a New Israeli Progressive Party

In today’s Ha’aretz, Avraham Burg apparently announced the formation of a new party. His description of it:

“The party Israel Equality (Shivyon Yisrael ) – with the acronym Shai in Hebrew, gift – will fight for a state that will be a total democracy; everything else will be either personal or on the community level. The party will wrestle with the sanctimonious internal contradiction of “a Jewish and democratic state,” which means a great deal of democracy for

Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg

the Jews and too much Jewish nationalism for the Arabs. It will be the party of those who are committed to the supreme universal and Israeli cultural values of human dignity, the search for peace and a desire for freedom, justice and equality.”

To be perfectly frank, that doesn’t just sound good, it sounds like precisely what Israel needs.

Over at Jewschool, the Kung Fu Jew expresses his skepticism. His concern is not with Burg’s ideology, but that the formation of another party will divide an already fatally divided Left in Israel. I understand that concern, but here it is misplaced.

The Israeli left is not just divided; in terms of political impact on Israeli policy, both foreign and domestic, it is non-existent. The extent to which the Israeli political system is responding to desires for peace or domestic justice and democracy can be measured by how much those desires are reflected in the mainstream parties. Meretz, Hadash, the Arab parties…none of them have the slightest impact on Israeli policy.

There simply is no progressive representation in Israel that matters. The causes of peace, democracy, human rights and universal values have been advanced, in any material sense, exclusively by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for years now. Meanwhile, the forces that wish to continue to marginalize Israel’s Arab sector, that wish to maintain the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that consider the Golan Heights more important than peace, and that wish to eliminate those very NGOs are strongly represented not only by avowedly right-wing parties, but with considerable representation in Kadima and Likud. Continue reading