Analyzing the Israeli Election

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s solid electoral victory was celebrated by the Right, but it creates a dynamic that could speed global resistance to the repression of the Palestinians and further isolate Israel for its racist policies, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Elections are public windows onto national hopes and concerns, and this was certainly the case with the March 2015 voting in Israel. You just have to look through that window with analytical eyes to assess those national yearnings in their essential details.

At first glance the campaigning suggested that most Israelis were focused on economics. This would not be unusual. Just about all democratic elections are fought over bread-and-butter issues, and Israel has evolved into a society that is harshly divided between haves and have-nots.

A section of the barrier -- erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians -- with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy's famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, "Ich bin ein Berliner." (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

A section of the barrier — erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians — with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

However, as it turned out, this campaign theme could not have been of primary importance. This is so because the man who symbolizes the dysfunctional economic status quo, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi), won the election. Indeed his hard-right Likud Party improved its position in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, from 19 to 30 seats. Obviously, something else was motivating the Israeli voter. What was it?

The answer to that question is fear – or, in Israeli terms, the issue of security. Netanyahu stoked this fear with warnings of a massive Arab-Israeli turnout and other examples of racist-tinged propaganda, and this led many Israeli Jews to decide, in the privacy of the voting booth, that they were more afraid of Palestinians than of poverty.

At the same time, most of these voters refused to face the fact that much of this fear is self-induced. Israel has evolved into one of the most racist countries on earth and at the heart of its racism is the ideologically driven desire for a state reserved primarily for Jews.

To accomplish this, Israel as a nation has dispossessed and oppressed the Palestinians. This practice has prevailed for so long that 60 percent of Israeli Jews cannot envision an end to the resulting struggle. So fear of Palestinian resistance, with its implied threat of destruction or at least transformation of the Jewish state, has always been their ultimate security issue.

It would seem that concern over security and its attendant fear caused enough Israelis, who would have otherwise voted their pocketbooks, to vote instead for the “no Palestinian state on my watch,” free-marketeer Bibi Netanyahu. And that allowed his Likud Party to win.

Consequences for the Israeli People

Given that so many Israeli Jews voted for Netanyahu’s Likud Party or one of the parties allied to it, what can they look for as a result? Well, they can hope against hope for their longed-for security. However, objectively speaking, this expectation is foolhardy.

This will be Netanyahu’s fourth term as prime minister and Israel is still the least safe place on the planet for Jews. In addition, thanks to Netanyahu’s policies, life for Jews outside of Israel is less, rather than more, secure.

In other words, those who voted for Likud or its allies looking for security seriously misjudged the situation. Indeed, they seem to be unable to understand what is really required for Israel’s security – namely, a just peace with the Palestinians – or how Netanyahu has already and soon will further negatively impact this issue.

Also, Netanyahu has adopted positions and policies which, if pressed forward (as they now surely will be), can only rebound negatively on Israel in the international arena. These positions and policies include Netanyahu’s refusal to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians, his now open rejection of a Palestinian state (despite his cynical post-election reversal on this point), the speeding up of illegal settlement activity, ever more violent oppressive occupation, theft of Palestinian tax revenue, and the utter impoverishment of the Gaza Strip.

Over time these policies have upset most of the governments of the Western world (an exception being the U.S. Congress), and that feeling may now grow and make more likely stronger reactions both from the Europeans, the United Nations, and the White House as well.

Israel’s voters can also look forward to an emboldened Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel movement, which will no doubt pick up supporters as a result of Netanyahu’s reelection. Then there is the allegation of Israeli war crimes now being considered by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Bibi’s return to power will ensure that this process continues, possibly resulting in indictments against a significant proportion of the Israeli chain of command, including the reelected Benjamin Netanyahu.

Finally, many Israelis can expect to stay poor under Netanyahu’s free market policies.

Consequences for the Palestinians

In the near run things may not change much for the Palestinians. With Netanyahu reelected, any Israeli talk of compromise, if it is articulated at all, will be recognized as empty propaganda. We can speculate that if Likud’s strongest rival, the Zionist Union headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, had won the recent election, they would perhaps have muddied the waters for the Palestinians – perhaps reopening “negotiations” with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian National Authority, probably then causing the latter to put on hold Palestinian charges of Israeli war crimes at the ICC, and then tempting the aging Abbas with some form of Bantustan.

That is the very best the Palestinians could have gotten from any Zionist government. It is realization of this hard fact that many Palestinians and their supporters would rather see Netanyahu in charge: the issues then at least remain crystal clear rather than fogged over by false hopes.

On the bright side of the equation the united Arab List did very well in the recent election and garnered 14 seats. This makes the Israeli Arab coalition the third largest bloc in the Knesset and thus a potential major opposition voice.

Arab-Israeli leaders will now demand seats on parliamentary committees. They will almost certainly be ignored or, at best, relegated to unimportant places. This will only disillusion many Arab-Israelis about politics in general and cause them to look for other avenues to express their longstanding dissatisfaction. For the rest of the world, their poor treatment will become more obvious and Israel’s claim to democratic status all the less persuasive.

Consequences for the United States

The sad truth is that the present leaders of the mainstream Jewish community in the U.S. have long favored the Likud leadership in Israel. Some of these Jewish leaders believe that tough-minded Likudniks are the best hedge against the “inevitable” next Holocaust, while others will back whoever is in charge because they are ideologically fixated on Israel as their cause celebre.

Thus, all of them are no doubt pleased with Netanyahu’s return to power. This is also the case for the Christian Zionists in the U.S. who are motivated by religious delusions about what it takes to bring about the Second Coming of their preferred god. It is a mistake to see these attitudes as generational. In both cases they will be with us for a long time. For all these people, Netanyahu’s reelection means business as usual.

The consequences of Netanyahu’s victory for liberal American Jews and their organizations – J Street, the American branch of Peace Now and the like – are really problematic. If they can hold onto their membership, they might press on despite all.

On the other hand, many liberal Jews might just give up and become quiet, which of course is what the hard-line Zionists want. But it is also likely that liberal Zionist organizations will lose members to more relevant and outspoken organizations such as Jewish Voices For Peace. That would be a move in a progressive and realistic direction.

Then there are the Republican Party officials. Their comfort level with the Bibi and his Likudniks is a matter of style and character. Take a man like John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, and match him in terms of personality and ethics to Benjamin Netanyahu. What you have is a compatible fit: two utterly unprincipled politicians who may in fact really like each other.

President Obama, and no doubt many other Democrats, would have preferred Netanyahu’s political demise and replacement with a Herzog-Livni coalition. Obama wants Zionists willing to at least put on a front of flexibility. These are the kind of folks he would feel comfortable working with, and given such partners, he would help them pressure the Palestinians into a Bantustan. He won’t get that now and so we are all spared the farce of further “peace talks.”

Finally, there is Netanyahu’s obsession with the Iran question and U.S. negotiations with that country. Bibi will no doubt feel emboldened by his electoral victory, and once he forms his coalition and consolidates power, the White House can expect him to resume his nagging and nay-saying ways on this issue.

Once the deal with Iran is struck (and I think it will be), one can anticipate Netanyahu’s collusion with the Republicans to undermine and, if they can, ultimately sabotage President Obama’s one notable contribution to a more peaceful and stable world.

Undermining peace, promoting oppression, assuring poverty, fostering racism, playing on people’s fears and interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries – none of this can be good for the rest of us. Clearly, Benjamin Netanyahu is bad news for the world at large. He is the political world’s analogue to global warming – the more active he is, the more toxic the environment becomes.

In the long run the Palestinians may be the only ones who benefit from the Israel’s March 2015 elections. The now guaranteed continued alienation from Israel of a good part of the Western world will work to their benefit over time. Netanyahu would dismiss this possibility as irrelevant, for he is certain that Israeli power wins out in the end. But then there are different types of power: just ask the men who once ran South Africa’s for-whites-only society.

On the other hand, the biggest losers are the Jews. The fact that the behavior of Netanyahu and his allies is repeatedly endorsed by a significant number of Jews inside and outside of Israel confirms that, except for the Holocaust, Zionism is the worst thing to happen to Jews and Judaism in the modern era. It has tied a people and a religion to a racist political ideology that is a variant on the criminal practice of apartheid.

Given that sort of culture, the worst rises to the top and, sure enough, that is what is happening in Israel.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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8 comments for “Analyzing the Israeli Election

  1. Evangelista
    March 25, 2015 at 19:20

    In most “civilized” nations in the early 21st century ballots are talied electronically, if not cast electronically, too. Voters’ votes go into “balck boxes” in this system and disappear. Results come out from the black boxes. What happens inside a black box, or network of black boxes is product of the electronics, the computer-program architecture inside the box. It is known that electonics are insecure, that they are readily manipulable, even if not hackable. In events where voting-machine programming is manipulated and hacked, the election outcome may be product of “war” between the manipulators (owners of the equipment or their political associates) and the hackers, who may be any and have any motives from election disruption to counter-manipulation.

    The voter becomes irrelevant. In fact, voting may become irrelevant if the electronics manipulators are able to control the whole process: As many “additional” “voters” as may be “necessary” to accomplish a manipulation may be drawn from the available registered voter data-base “pool”.

    The potential fly that might muddle the manipulation ointment would be the pollsters, especially “exit poll” pollsters, who ask voters at polls, where internet or mail does not mask even this potential “fact-check”, how they voted. Most asked answer honestly.

    The offense to beat such poll defenses against manipulation will be, one, to assign voters to lie to pollsters, and two, to introduce last-minute issue-bliltzes, too late for pollsters to poll in regard to, to influences of which manipulated results can be assigned.

    In the March 2015 Israeli election, where “Bibi” was polled to not be doing so well, a last minute blitz of ferociously right-wing and belligerent rhetoric was produced by “Bibi” and results indicated the blitz effective, though some polls came up significantly wrong; of course, not the pollsters’ fault, the voters obviously lied to them…

    And now “Bibi” has been “walking back” his rhetoric that alledgedly won him the election.

    Somehow, I suspect that “Bibi” was marked to win by the owners of the election equipment and election system, and won the election “electronically”. with last minute theatre introduced to cover and “explain” the “unexpected” counter to polling results.

    If my suspicions are correct, the Israeli electorate did not elect “Bibi” and that electorate may be less right-wing, hard-line and blood-thirsty than the election has made it, internationally, to be, whatever it might be.

    I suspect we may be, in future, going to be seeing this kind of thing, or more of this kind of thing. Any voter may be susceptible to be “black-boxed” from liberal or conservative to nazi or radical, or whatever the manipulators need him or her to be.

  2. Peter Loeb
    March 25, 2015 at 06:18

    NETANYAHU IS ONLY ONE EXPRESSION OF ZIONISM…

    It’s time to get moving. Benjamin Netanyahu is one expression of Zionism. A close look at
    the history of Zionism, its relationship over many decades with US policies of both
    US political parties have always been not only complicit buT supportive.

    As many commentators have observed there may have been a very slight change of emphasis in Israeli policy permitting the US to hide behind the fabrication that Israel sought
    “peace”. (One commenter called it the lamb “negotiating” with the wolf or in fact many
    wolves outside of UN control. If the fiction comes apart, the US will undoubtedly blame BY
    Netanyahu to save THE us’S own face. (or many faces if you include the many US Administrations).

    involved).

    One wonders if more than Netanyahu’s words, the current US problems stem much if not
    more from its internal economic and military weakness. The good figures for economics
    attest to the welfare of the wealthy. One war somewhere might bring the nation together just as Korea was to bring the US together in previous eras.

    What if the US did enter all of the wars that others demand they fight for them? The expense
    would be prohibitive for the US. The effect on world opinion would be disastrous. And as in
    the past it is far from certain that the US would prevail despite the vast number of presumablty “inferior” people we managed to murder in the process. Note that since Europe
    is increasingly experiencing hard times of its own, it is becoming more and more reluctant
    to “pony up” in US misadventures.

    —–Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

  3. Joe Tedesky
    March 24, 2015 at 00:41

    Is the tough talk coming out of the White House concerning Netanyahu’s ‘no 2 state’ campaign rhetoric a way to push the US Congress against the wall? Could President Obama be telling our US Congress to stop with their efforts of sabotaging the IRAN Nuke deal? Is this Bibi rhetoric vs p5+1? Would the result be IRAN Nuke deal gets accomplished, but the Palestinians get nothing? If this were so, then what does all this mean?

  4. JOHN L OPPERMAN
    March 23, 2015 at 16:53

    Not only are Israeli Jews** forever blowing they hard won admiration for empathy and generosity for others, but more and more condemning themselves to a future of isolation from the world of their fellow man.

    **as well as Jews everywhere who Do Not subscribe to Zionist Aparthitde, becoming more at risk.

  5. Gregory Kruse
    March 23, 2015 at 14:42

    I think it’s only a matter of how long before the entire middle east so haphazardly divided by the Great Powers will be united under one ultra-conservative regime that could be called
    Saudi Israelia. This is the secret passion of the religious fundamentalists across the spectrum from Wahabis to Orthodox Jews, and the motivation to destabilize the entire region. The only thing in the way are the Shia of Iran, and that is why it is so important to both sects that Iran be destroyed utterly.

  6. March 23, 2015 at 13:01

    only a fraction of the governed were allowed to vote, actually voted and only a handful voted for the “winning” party.

    http://i62.tinypic.com/214wpkn.jpg

  7. bobzz
    March 23, 2015 at 12:51

    “These positions and policies include Netanyahu’s refusal to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians, his now open rejection of a Palestinian state (despite his cynical post-election reversal on this point), the speeding up of illegal settlement activity, ever more violent oppressive occupation, theft of Palestinian tax revenue, and the utter impoverishment of the Gaza Strip”.

    If logic reigned, Bibi could not take back what he said about ‘no two state solution’ when his voters clearly understood him to mean what he said. They understand his ‘take-back’ is for American consumption. In time, he will get away with it, and he knows it.

  8. brian r
    March 23, 2015 at 11:17

    So, Mr Davidson, you’re a history professor. You might find it wise to consult some experts in the mind. Consider a race of people who ‘started’ with conflicts with the neo-Assyrian empire. That’s the middle of the 8th century BCE. Check out the actions of Sargon II and Sennacherib. Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. The destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Check out the Greek conquests leading to tensions between Judeans and Greeks. Came the Roman intervention, the attempted genocide of the Jewish people and the destruction of the Second Temple. The Jewish Diaspora. From 635 CE, the region was conquered by muslim arabs. It shouldn’t take too long to check out the subsequent six centuries in Israel. And imagine the effects on the Jews who fled. Persecuted almost everywhere that they tried to settle in safety. Carry on and check out the occupation of Judea by the Egyptian Mamluks. 16th century and the area is conquered by the Turkish Ottoman area. The British Mandate and the chance of a return and re-establishment of a homeland. The nazi Holocaust. Independence under UN auspices and Israel is immediately attacked by how many Arab armies/countries?

    As it happens, I’m English and I live in England. I don’t have an ounce of Jewish blood in me. But I do come from a country that has been attacked many times. How many times has your country been attacked? I don’t mean a detached territory 2,000 miles away, but attacks on Chicago, New York, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

    Would you like to consider the effect of constant attacks, constant persecution, constant murders on an entire people for 2,000 years?

    Pettifogging issues such as the ones you mention are just insults. Not just insults to the Israeli/Jewish people but to all those that can see the difference between right and wrong.

    So let’s get it right. Muslim arabs STOLE the land of Israel. It remained STOLEN until the days of the British Mandate. At least Britain had the honesty to recognise the rights of the people of Israel. Now it seems that there’s right, wrong and global politics. I’ll still plump for right, thank you. I don’t think I could bring myself to write an article so dismissive of the legitimate concerns, feelings and rights of over 8 million people. Not counting other Jewish communities around the world. How do you feel about the Israeli embassy and AMIA bombings?

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