It is hard to recall an election whose outcome was as predictable as is the one coming up in a month. Despite the pundits’ desperate attempts to create some suspense, the chance that the center-left will be able to form a government is almost non-existent. All the movement is within the electoral blocs, and between them there is a permanent and conspicuous majority for the right and the ultra-Orthodox parties allied with them. Why, however, is this the case? The common wisdom connects it to Netanyahu’s political wiles, to the lack of leadership on the left, to the inability to raise the socio-economic issues, about which the Likud has no message, and to Netanyahu’s success in keeping the focus on the “security” issues.
All these excuses, however, are about tactics. The truth is much simpler and more depressing. Netanyahu has been elected over and over again. (Nine years all together, and counting! In Israel, as opposed to the United States, there are no term limits on the Prime Minister.) And not because he is a great political tactician (which he is!) but rather because his ideology fits hand in glove with the view of the majority of Jewish Israelis. This is an outlook that can be summed up with the words of Passover Haggadah: “In every single generation they are poised to kill us, but the IDF (this is a small change from the traditional liturgy) saves us from their hands.” In other words, the ideology of an eternal victim, who does not recognize his power, and all the more so, does not recognize the wrongs that he himself perpetrates. We, who have the most powerful army in the Middle East, who for two generations have been controlling the lives of millions of people who have no civil rights, are the only victims in town, and any criticism of us is merely disguised antisemitism.
The most pessimistic part of this story is that the dynamic of victimization is completely circular. The more that we are criticized, the more it is obvious that we are victims, that the whole world is against us, and that we can only rely on ourselves. The real antidote to that is if course education. But this is a long term struggle, whereas the disasters of the occupation, and racism threaten us in an immediate and actual way. We simply do not have the years and years for long range educational initiatives.
In this situation, all that one can hope for in the immediate future is that the government that will be established after the elections will be a narrowly right government, not a “unity” government, and without all manner of “moderate” personalities like Lapid and Co. Without the Kosher stamp, the seal of approval, of the center, the occupation will not last. As simple as that. The international political pressure will be too great. Israel cannot become an oppositional, and isolated country like North Korea or Iran. Israel’s dependence on the world is simply too great. One should remember that without the American veto of every pro-Palestinian initiative in the UN, it would have been over a long time ago.
And yet not everything is dark and gloom. There is one clear point of light in these elections. Avigdor Lieberman, the politician who built his whole career on untainted, explicit racism, managed to raise the electoral threshold [i.e. the minimum percentage of the votes cast that a party needs in order to be able to gain a seat in the Knesset] in order to hurt the small and fractured Arab parties. As a result, the Arab parties were forced to merge. The unified party breathed new life into the Israeli Arab populace and whereas in the previous elections these parties together received 11 seats, there are now polls which are predicting that they will get 15 seats. Given a certain political constellation they will become the head of the opposition. The rising political power of the most oppressed and discriminated against population in Israel today, is the most exciting news in these depressingly predictable elections. After all, is not standing by the side of the oppressed the most Jewish action?
translated by Aryeh Cohen