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Full Speed in Neutral – Reading the Israeli Elections

As Israel is a military society, its jokes also come in Khaki. An infantry company was training in a remote area. They didn’t have a shower and couldn’t even change clothes. After a week of hard time in the sun, all the soldiers felt very uncomfortable. They could hardly stand quietly as the captain gathered them in the camp’s yard. As usual, he said he had two announcements for them, one good, one bad. The good one is that they will all change their underwear today. The bad one is that the men from platoon A will change their underwear with those from platoon B.
I didn’t expect much from the Israeli elections. All the Zionist parties share a wide consensus that starts with support for the 1948 ethnic cleansing and objection to the right of return of the Palestinians. All had spent quality time in consecutive governments, paying lips’ service to the famous Israeli longing for peace while robbing more Palestinian lands, building settlements and keeping a system of systematic racial discrimination.
Nor did the Israeli public, or anybody else in the world, expect much either. Actually the elections were called by prime minister Netanyahu as he felt that he was at the peak of his power, with no effective opposition, in order to perpetuate his tenure before Israel enters a period of economic hardship that may turn the public against him.
But where there is no hope or good guys, there is plenty of gloating glee.
First of all Netanyahu hardly got what he wanted. The height of his election campaign was the “Operation Pillar of Cloud” onslaught on Gaza, in November 2012, which ended with Palestinian rockets landing for the first time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He had to stop it abruptly after 7 days under Egyptian and American pressure. The result was almost total lifting of the prolonged siege of Gaza that Israel imposed in order to topple its elected Hamas government.
On the home front Netanyahu succeeded to dissolve the (mostly middle class) wide protest movement of summer 2011 with almost no concessions. Raising the prospects of War on Iran he thought he could play himself as the strong man and have Israelis jump to their customary subordinate pose.
It all backfired with the Netanyahu block (his Likud + Lieberman’s “Israel Beitenu”) losing much of its power in votes, MPS and political maneuvering space. As usual at the time of crisis and weakness, the party in government is paying the price of its impotence and is loosing credibility.
The second special reason for gloating is the disappearance from the public scene of Ehud Barak – one of Israel’s most blood thirsty generals… Once prime minister, he didn’t even dare to stand for elections. The other senior general, Sha’ul Mofaz, was leading Kadima, Israel’s biggest party in the last (2009) elections. He hardly squeezed in this time with 2.1% of the vote. The 2013 elections sign the big fall of the top brass from the heights of Israeli politics. The Israeli military had little to be proud about over the last years, so there is not much glory for the generals.
So who will be leading Israel over the next period? Its successful High-Tech elite shows no interest. They are trotting the globe, looking for exits, outsourcing and relocating. The Tycoons that live by monopolizing all the local resources and markets need the government – but they prefer to stay in the background, buy whatever politicians prove best at fooling the public. The Knesset is now full with establishment journalists, political and religious apparatchiks with the most viable lot being the settlers’ pogrom gangsters, now controlling about a third of the house.
Yet the real success story of the elections is Ya’ir Lapid’s “Yesh ‘Atid” (“There is a Future”) hot air balloon party, which came out of the nowhere to be the second biggest. The only thing that he states clearly is his desire to “divide the burden evenly” – i.e. to force Haredim (strongly religious) Jews and Palestinian Arabs to serve in the Israeli army. It shows at the same time how much the Israeli public, and especially the youth, is longing for change, on one hand, and to what extent this public has no real desire to change anything on the other. So they elected a brand new party with exactly the same policies…
The rest of cast makes farther wired laughing matter. Labor, led by Shelly Yekhimovitch, thought they got the magic formula of the 2011 “social protest” – warm hug to the settlers, ignoring the Palestinians and asking for “social justice”. Even talking about peace was irrelevant old staff. This promoted another last minute hot air balloon, Tsipi Livni’s “Tnu’a” (Movement), which advocated the “peace process” as a “niche market” and got its 5% of the vote.
“Meretz”, the Zionist “Left”, enjoyed this time the observed invulnerability of Netanyahu. It allowed its traditional supporters to vote for the party that express “their principles” and not crawling to the “center” to support candidates that may form an alternative government. Meretz doubled its share of the vote to 4.6%. But what those famous principles are? It is a long search we don’t have time to pursue now – in the last war on Gaza Meretz’ leadership didn’t find its supposed “principles” to oppose the war until it was over.

This blog, as explained elsewhere, advocates the boycott of the Israeli elections. The current “Jewish Majority” is based on the ethnic cleansing of the original Arab Palestinian population and on the disfranchising of the Arab Palestinian majority in Palestine. As long as you accept this framework, the discussion in the Knesset and its elections can only be about sharing the spoils of occupation and not about peace or justice.

The Boycott Campaign, now in the spirit of the Arab Spring, led by youth activists and using social media, was less organized but much more effective than ever before. The majority of the Arab public didn’t vote – even though we will never know the real numbers. Both the Arab Knesset parties and the Zionist establishment share the interest to hide the Boycott’s success. What is more important, a growing share of the Arab public is openly declaring its complete distrust of Israeli politics. A growing share of the real left and democratic activists in the Jewish society are now integrating into Palestinian politics, boycott included.

Like everybody talking about Israeli elections – I almost didn’t mention the Arab parties (and the Arab and Jewish Jabha Dimokratiya – Democratic Front) which received about the same results as last time… It is good for them. As I believe that many of their leaders, and most of their cadres, are really patriotic Palestinians, I don’t think they really belong to the Israeli Knesset. Throughout the years the Arab Palestinian public, with its boycotting and Knesset parties, shares the same struggles in the streets against the criminal oppressive laws that come from this hall of racist shame.
But now, in an effort to stem the flow of the public toward the boycott camp, some leaders of the Arab Knesset parties wanted to show that their participation in the Knesset can make a real difference. They blamed the Boycott campaign in preventing the toppling of the Netanyahu government. The only possible meaning of this position is that, if they had the votes to do it, they would support a government led by Lapid. Sorry, gentlemen’s, but by this reasoning you just prove how essential the boycott is. It shows that, even for good people like you, there is no practical politics in the Knesset other than supporting a government of occupation, settlements and racial discrimination.