Israeli Elections: Round 2

On Tuesday, Israel held its second national election this year. With most of the ballots counted, neither Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud coalition nor Benny Gantz’s Blue

Benny Gantz

and White grouping had enough support for their parties and their natural allies to form a new government. The absentee ballots and those of the active military are still due to be counted, so there might yet be some minor changes in the final tally, but it will not be enough to grant either of the largest parties a majority coalition.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has the job of deciding how to proceed. He can tap the leader of any party to try to form a majority or he can try to work out an arrangement for a government of national unity between Likud and Blue and White, among other options. What he will do remains a mystery, as there is no obvious and clear path to the next government.

The reason for the impasse is the same as it was back in April—Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party. His refusal to join Netanyahu’s coalition in April, unless Netanyahu stepped down and allowed for a government of national unity, eventually led to this second round of elections, and his stance is not only unchanged, his party picked up four more Knesset seats, so his position is even stronger now.

So was it all for naught?

Not quite. While the next Israeli government is unlikely to materialize for some time, and when it does, its basic policies are unlikely to be very different than they have been for the past years—even if, as seems likely at the moment, Netanyahu is finally ousted—this election established some important facts that should not be overlooked. Here are a few of them. Read more at LobeLog

Racism As a Virtue

The mayor of Upper Nazareth, Shimon Gafsou, is campaigning for re-election on an openly racist platform, even by the standards set by the likes of Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett. His openly racist statements bring out some uncomfortable but crucial truths about Israel and why a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians has been so hard to reach for. I explore this week in Souciant.

Democracy Means Equality

A fundamental plank of any peace plan has to be universal rights and full equality for all, and that is true whether the solution is one state, two states, twelve states or no states in Israel-Palestine. I elaborate at Souciant.

Saved By Demography

In this week’s article at Souciant I look at recent shifts in the Israeli political landscape within the context of how two-staters might start to seriously rethink their approach in a post-Oslo world.

The Tel Aviv Riots: An All Too Familiar Story

After writing my article today, which dealt with the ongoing race riots in Tel Aviv, I saw a couple of things that spurred some further thoughts, perhaps in a different vein from the piece up at Souciant.

Sign on the right: “What country are we living in? Sudan? Eritrea? Al-Qaeda in the midst of the state!!!”

One was a tweet that pointed to the riots and sarcastically added “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Now, Israel’s democracy has serious problems, and they include both social and bureaucratic methods (though as the hasbaraniks are always quick to point out, generally not legal ones anymore) of depriving its Arab citizens of full equality with Jews. It is also under attack from the right, as embodied in the words and deeds of leaders from Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and other, smaller rightist parties (including Kadima, which can only be called “centrist” in a country that has tilted absurdly to the right).

But this still stands as a perfect example of Israel being held to a different standard than other countries. There are many criticisms to level against Israeli democracy, even before we consider the West Bank;  but as ugly as these riots are, they are not one of them. Continue reading

Why We Hate Them

In this week’s column at Souciant you can see the second entry in my series on the causes and effects of the 1967 war and beginning of the occupation, as we near the 45th anniversary of those events. In this piece, I look as well at the recent race riots in south Tel Aviv and how the xenophobia of the rioters and, perhaps more importantly, the political leaders who inspire that hate, is connected to a culture of occupation.

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