Do not regret the results of Israeli elections. They were a non-event. Practically nothing has changed. Indeed many actors had hoped for change, but those hopes had no grounding in reality.
Israel is doing well, even exceedingly well. The country prospers. Despite high taxes, Israeli highways are crowded with new cars; Israeli housewives load their supermarket wagons with food for the Passover as if they prepare to die of overeating. The Israeli shekel is high like cotton in the summer, and all planes are full to the brim with Israeli vacationers. The weather has been playing for the incumbent as well: glorious Palestinian spring had brought out myriads of flowers and the blossom stays over the Holy Land.
In such a situation, people do not vote for change. And anyway, no real change had been offered. The new party of generals, called Blue-and-White, after the colours of Israeli national flag (it’s like calling an American party “Stars and Stripes”, or a British party, “Union Jack”), did not propose anything new. They said they would do the same, only better (or worse, for the Palestinians). The old opposition parties of the Left Zionists, Labour and Meretz, have lost their voters: they migrated to the generals. They anyway had nothing to offer, except more gender disorder and identity politics.
PM Netanyahu demonstrated that he has great support with the superpowers. President Trump presented him with the Golan Heights, a slice of Syrian territory occupied since 1967. President Putin presented him with remains of an Israeli soldier killed in action many years ago in Lebanon. Netanyahu flashed selfies made with the two presidents in his effective campaign; he promised everything to everybody, and carried the lot.
Israelis would be ungrateful if they’d vote against the incumbent, and they knew what was good for them. The generals, and other opponents of Bibi, tried to make something of Netanyahu’s coming indictment for corruption; but the general public was not impressed. Apparently, these charges had been used too much and too often to derail a political enemy, and people stopped paying heed.
I noticed it for the first time years ago in Japan, where a very popular politician Mr Kakuei Tanaka had been jailed for taking a bribe from the Lockheed. A young journalist at that time, I was amazed that the Japanese had remained faithful to the imprisoned politician. They thought that all politicians accept graft; the question is: what else they do? And Tanaka did good for them. While it is possible to mobilise media against a person accused of graft, of harassment, of sexual impropriety, or racism, the people in general do not care much about it: they think (rightly) it is just a trick of political adversaries. SJW used it too often, and completely devalued such accusations.
Israelis did not intend to vote against Mr Netanyahu just because his adversaries appealed to their moral judgement. Anyway, Israelis have very little sense of morality, if any. Netanyahu’s racist jibes against the Arab citizens of Israel stoked no fire in Jewish souls.
The Palestinian question did not play at all in the elections. Millions of imprisoned Palestinians in the world’s largest open jail of Gaza were out of Israeli mind. If they would not send a missile now and there, they would be totally forgotten by their Jewish masters, like medieval prisoners in the cellars of the Bastille. On Israeli TV, they showed a sequence from the Zombie Apocalypse of Zombies storming the wall Israelis erected on their borders – following the pictures of Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza. The message was clear and brutal: for Jews, the Palestinians are Zombies that should be kept beyond the (ever-expanding) walls.
Netanyahu played on the edge of a fault: he pushed the Palestinians to his utmost, and then relented when they were about to explode. This cruel tactic was successful: he bombarded Gaza, and then allowed its inmates to fish in the sea (this prerogative had been withdrawn some months earlier). The Gaza government had planned a series of large demos to mark the anniversary of their Great March of Return. But after an Israeli airstrike, they relented, and no large manifestation was allowed on the border. Palestinians are being killed on the daily basis, but in small numbers; and it is being reported on the bottom page of Israeli newspapers as a thing of little importance.
The main competitor to Netanyahu, the Blue-and-White’s General Gantz boasted in his pre-election videos that he killed thousands of Palestinians; he promised that he wouldn’t relinquish Israeli hold on the Golan Heights. So really important issues weren’t even debated in these elections.
What was debated, then? An obscure point of who belongs to the right, and who belongs to the left. In present Israeli parlance, the leftist is a traitor who cares about Arabs and despises Oriental Jews, and that is obviously a marker to be avoided. Very few Israelis (if at all) admit to having left leanings, a curious turn for a country established and ruled by socialists for many years.
Even people on the fringe of the Jewish Israeli society, the Russian Israelis, were all for Jewish nationalism and against socialism and Arabs. This is really silly. They are hardly considered Jews, to begin with. The Ministry of Interior plans to check them for DNA and whether they are Jewish at all. The Russians are weak economically, and their participation in the national discourse is minimal. There is not a single Russian on the national Israeli TV channels. They have a party of their own, the party of Mr Lieberman. However, the main demands of Mr Lieberman are (1) to bring the death penalty upon Arabs, (2) to bomb and invade Gaza, and (3) to make Mr Lieberman the Minister of Defence. And the Russian Israelis voted for him – or for Mr Netanyahu – anyway.
Israelis of Oriental origins who inhabit poor peripheral towns are similar to Russians. They also vote for Netanyahu and for his nationalist right-wing party, Likud. They are proud they vote against the Ashkenazi Blue-and-White Party, though all leaders of Likud are Ashkenazi Jews.
This hatred to the Left in the Israeli discourse had caused a comic effect. A few politicians decided to run their own parties called New Right, Union of the Right etc. One of these parties had been led by Mr Feiglin, an ultra-right-wing libertarian (formerly on the fringe of Netanyahu’s Likud) who called for speedy construction of the Third Temple on the place of Al Aqsa Mosque, for dismantling of social state, for legalisation of light drugs, for annexation of the West Bank and mass expulsion of Arabs. The polls predicted he would get seven or eight seats in the parliament. However, this loony agenda was trashed, and he went back to the political wilderness.
Two rather successful right-wing politicians decided to split from their long-established right-wing religious party and created a New Right Party. One of them is good-looking Ayelet Shaked, the Minister of Justice in the last government who flirted with fascism. Another is the Education Minister in the government, the US-born Naftali Bennett. Their trick failed them, and they found themselves out. Apparently, the offer of the right-wing parties exceeded the demand for this product.
Still one ultra-religious and ultra-nationalist right-wing party had made it to parliament, with its demands for enforcing Jewish religious law in its entirety, suppressing the Arabs and worshipping the late Israeli-American terrorists Rabbi Meir Kahane and Dr Baruch Goldstein. They demand the portfolios of Education and Justice (sic!), as they intend to educate the Israeli children in their vein and to undo the power of the Supreme Court.
The Arab parties did not do as well as they did in the last elections, when they ran as single block. The ambitions of Dr Tibi, a popular Arab deputy, had caused the dissolution of the United Arab List, and the Arabs had to choose between two lists. The sum of two was smaller than it was when they run together. Many Israeli Palestinians voted for Meretz and Labour, too, as they noticed that the Jewish parties do not collaborate with Arab deputies and their presence in the parliament has no influence on their daily life.
There is one good guy we shall keep an eye for, a Hebrew University Professor with PhD from LSE, a firebrand communist, a Jew who was elected by Arabs, Dr Offer Cassif. He compares the Zionists with the Nazis, calls for One State, for the Right of Return, for full equality of a Jew and Goy. At first, he was banned from participation in the elections, but the Supreme Court allowed him to run and he got in. He can be compared to the only righteous man in the Israeli Sodom (Genesis 18) and the only hope of the Knesset to survive the wrath of God.
Now with the elections are finally behind, Netanyahu will have the hard job of making a coalition government that will survive his forthcoming indictment. His partners are perfectly willing to play ball, and to legislate a Netanyahu Is Untouchable Law, but for a price. They will agree on a price, too, do not worry, it is the Israeli public that will pay the price, but they knew it when they voted like they did.
Is there a chance to change things in Israel, with such a Parliament? Well, yes. A military defeat can change minds, like it did in many countries many times. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine what would cause Netanyahu to change his course in view of the US support, Saudi friendship, Syrian weakness, and good election results. He is not for resolving conflicts, he is for managing conflict, and he is doing that well.
Russia’s Putin plays ball with Bibi, too. Perhaps he does not like Bibi’s relentless attacks on Syria, perhaps his heart goes for Palestinians, but he is a cautious statesman, and he does not want to antagonise the man who can mobilise American Jews into an action against Russia. There are enough American Jews against Russia and against Putin as things are; Putin does not need more. Besides, the Israeli opposition is not keen on Putin; they are lining up with the US Democrats and with Brussels Europeans. They called for direct intervention in Syria on the side of ‘moderate rebels’, while Netanyahu had kept Israel out of Syrian War and did not obstruct Putin’s Syrian campaign.
Will Netanyahu annex the whole of the West Bank, as he said during the election campaign? Probably not; as nothing will be obtained by such an act but making apartheid visible. Instead, he is likely to annex every place where Jews live in the West Bank, turning the territory of Palestine into a slug-eaten cabbage leaf. He also may annex Area C, a bigger part of Palestinian territory presently under Israeli military control and Palestinian civilian administration. The Jewish settlers demand it, for, they say, Palestinians damage the contiguity of the Jewish settlements.
The Jewish religious parties came out stronger in the new parliament. They also enjoy a very high natural growth with families of 5 to 8 children average. They are not eager to compete on the labour market, and prefer to be paid for studying Talmud and having kids. While it may annoy some Israelis, in my view, it is an internal issue of little interest or importance for anybody outside the Jewish milieu.
Is there a possible solution for the conflict? It is definitely not the Deal of the Century of Mr Jared Kushner, some yet undefined arrangement usually done with smoke and mirrors. Probably One Democratic State, where Jews and non-Jews are equal, is the only possible solution, as the place is too small to divide but large enough to share.
Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]
This article was first published at The Unz Review.