Results from Israeli elections indicate a victory for Benjamin Netanyahu and the right wing Likud party. The early announcement after 99.5% of the ballots were counted showed Netanyahu’s Likud wining 29-30 seats, the Zionist Union in second place with 24 and the United Arab List in third place and 13 seats. Polling data three days before the actual elections had Netanyahu trailing the Zionist Union party but the reversal of fortune came as a result of an even more dramatic shift to the right.
Racism and fear paid dividend for Netanyahu in the final few days. Finding himself stuck and possibly heading for a loss, Netanyahu made the needed appeal to Israel’s right wing base promising more settlement activities in Jerusalem and a commitment to oppose a Palestinian state. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s expressed racism toward Arab Israeli citizens who participated in the elections in a joint list and implying that an increase Arab turnout is a threat to the Jewish state. In a video message posted on Mr. Netanyahu’s Facebook: “The right-wing government is in danger. Arabs are advancing on the ballot boxes in droves,” and warning that the “Left-wing organizations are busing them out.”
Furthermore, making an allegation that the election efforts by Arabs are carried out by “no V15”, a supposed organization working against him with foreign funding and the response to it is “Order Number Eight.” The “Order Number Eight” is a reference to the government right to call up Israeli citizens to serve army duty thus placing Palestinian participation in the elections as a security threat to the state.
Netanyahu’s racist turn should be connected as well to yet more violent statement coming from the current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu. In an event just days before the elections Lieberman joined ISIS in articulating a solution for Arabs in Israel, “Anyone who’s with us should be given everything – up to half the kingdom. Anyone who’s against us, there’s nothing to do – we should raise an axe and cut off his head; otherwise we won’t survive here.” Lieberman finding the fortunes of his party Yisrael Beiteinu declining took to Facebook and Twitter in a last ditch effort to change the tide, “Even Netanyahu knows that if the Arabs are going to the polls in droves, only a strong Lieberman can stop them.”
What was surprising is the United Arab list coming in third place with 14 seats despite Lieberman’s own efforts to limit Arab political power by increasing the threshold for political parties to hold a seat from 2% to 3.25%. Political necessity brought the United Arab List together and the alliance increased the total number of Palestinian Knesset members from 11 to 14. In a March 6, 2015 Newsweek interview Ayman Odeh, one of the leaders of the United Arab List said, “When our four parties began to work together we discovered that our positions are actually very close to each other. Together we developed both long-range and more immediate plans. The long-term plans talk about peace, based on the U.N. Resolutions: equal rights for everyone in the country; social justice for everyone; and equality between people in the State of Israel.”
The lead-up to the elections and the actual results provide a clearer picture as to internal dynamics of Israeli political landscape and the consolidation of the pro-settlement and maximalists right-wing parties. Netanyahu’s public statements made it clear that a Palestinian state is not on the agenda for a Likud led government or anyone within the coalition.
The primary focus at least as the results and lead up to the vote indicate, will be a continuation of building and expanding settlement activities thus ushering the official end of the two-state solution. While many held hope or were induced into false hope that somehow Netanyahu and Israel’s right wing will come around to support a two-state solution, but the rhetoric and election results should put an end to this wishful thinking. Netanyahu’s actions in the past six years are far more conclusive evidence for a complete rejection of a Palestinian state and the move toward a de facto annexation of the West Bank and not to forget the annexed and greatly expanded Jerusalem municipality.
For keen observers of the Palestine-Israel conflict, Netanyahu’s statements and further turn to the right is not surprising if the actual ‘facts on the ground’ are taken into consideration. At the beginning of the Oslo agreement the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights had approximately 100,000 settlers but since then the number has increased to 580,000, a clear indication in words and deeds that Israel and its successive governments were not serious or prepared to end the occupation and recognize a Palestinian state. The murder of Rabin by Israel’s militant right wing with the Netanyahu’s agitation was the actual end of the peace process and today’s campaign rhetoric affirms what was all along known at policy levels. With this election and thanks to Netanyahu’s clarification Palestine and Palestinians are back into the pre-Oslo framing and modes of engagement.
Consequently, the future for Israel on the world stage will become more problematic and entangled with a European and American public that no longer has the stomach to support endless occupation and settlement expansion. Not to mention countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia that already had concern coming out of the attacks on Gaza and the current statements will only deepen the distance. Netanyahu won the election but Israel lost the vote and an eroded creditability if anything of it was actually present after last summer’s massacres in Gaza.
No one aside from the spin-doctors, actually believes or trusts that Netanyahu and Israel’s current political leadership is committed to peace with the Palestinians. The elections made this very clear as if the settlement building, bypass roads, checkpoints and apartheid wall gave the impression that end of the occupation was just around the corner.
As States, non-governmental organizations and civil society groups seeking freedom and dignity for Palestinians the election results will point the way toward the next stage in the intensified global effort. The Palestinian Authority, which has been living wishful thinking moments for a number of years will have to make a major decision as to the next steps in the many times dead at arrival negotiations efforts. The PA will have todouble its efforts at the international level and bring as many legal and diplomatic actions directed at Israel and its institutions around the world. Indeed, while the application to join the ICJ was a positive step, however it should be considered a beginning rather than an end in itself. Palestinians should work to mobilize Arab and Muslim civil society and actual government bodies to pursue legal and civil society actions whenever and wherever possible.
Immediately, Palestine activists and allies around the world should respond with doubling the global effort at Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and contest at every turn Netanyahu’s government and its representatives for they represent the rejectionist and anti-peace camp. Winning the Israeli elections on the basis of racism and promises to settlers has a consequence, and it should be translated into a total shunning of Netanyahu and his racist and bullying Apartheid brand of politics.
The world community was hanging on the false premise that Netanyahu and successive Israeli right wing government are actually interested in peace. This elections more than any before it have exposed the reality of what is underway in Israel, an entrenched right wing committed to occupying and dispossessing the Palestinians with an ugly and publically expressed racist discourse. The civilized and democratic mask has fallen and the world was witness to the ugliness.
As long as Israeli leaders maintained the mask of western style democracy and enlightened civilized society they were able to mollify and derail any criticism. By resorting to openly racist discourse in the political arena and at the highest levels of government the after-effect will be the eroding of the ideological foundations on the basis of which Israel claimed a higher moral ground around the world.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky revisionist Zionism blue print was apparent in Netanyahu’s election campaign and we should no longer be lulled to sleep and believe anything else. Jabotinsky, the grandfather of the current Likud crop, was emphatic about the need to drive the Arabs out and Netanyahu is heir to this ideological mind.
The end of the two-state framework will move Israel solidly into either a full-fledged Apartheid State or a single bi-national state based on equality of all citizens. As long as the prospect of a Palestinian state was on the table it implied that Israel’s occupation is temporary and may end through negotiations but by Netanyahu totally abandoning the internationally supported plan then Apartheid is the reality once coupled with increased settlements and settlers. Netanyahu’s election victory cemented Jabotinsky’s vision and locked Israel into a point of no return; either Apartheid, equality or constantly manufacturinga war on Gaza to distract from the real choices. What comes next in my estimation is another attack on Gaza and a fictitious Iranian threat to drive a fear centric internal and regional agenda.