Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Many months before the recent election in Israel, before Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gave his speech to the U.S. Congress, I had in mind writting a post about Israeli politics. The title would have been something like: "Why does Benjamin Netsanyahu Keep Stabbing Me in the Back?" It seemed that every time I posted my thoughts supporting the right of Israel to defend itself against terrorists (e.g. Hamas in Gaza), Mr. Netanyahu slipped a knife between my ribs by announcing more settlement building. It got to the point of being predictable, and infuriating.

In the runup to the Israeli elections, Netanyahu collaborated with the worst elements of the congressional Republican right wing in the U.S. to bolster his cred with the Israeli right wing by dissing our President and our very serious negotiations with Iran concerning nuclear weapons. This was blatant electioneering supported and abetted by the Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Senate Republicans (47 of them) then sent an amazingly stupid and embarrassing letter to the leadership of Iran, further endangering the success of the negotiations between a coalition of world governments and Iran. (Although a clear evidentiary path has yet to be illuminated, some analysts think that the letter was the idea of Netanyahu's Likud Party and possibly written by the American lobby group AIPAC (see Note 1) In any event, the concept and execution of The Letter remains a very interesting political maneuver.). 

In the final days of the campaigning in Israel, Netanyahu took the low road to bolster his support by the Israeli right wing and ultra religious groups and stated that if elected, he would ensure that there would not be a Palestinian State, the elusive two-state solution. 

Netanyahu has now won what was supposed to be a very close election. This is a very big problem for liberal and progressive Jews and other people who support the existance of Israel as a democracy in which Jews have the national security they lack in many other parts of the world. The reaffirmation of Netanyahu and his policies is a blow to the open support of Israel, which is now clearly dominated by right wing, nationalistic politics. The election result fans the flames of anti-Israel sentiment and activities, and, by association, bolsters anti-semitism world-wide. 

I swore loudly when I woke up this morning to the radio news that Netanyahu had won the election. I had hoped that more moderate political forces would gain control of the Israel government and try something new regarding relationships and peace negotiations with Palestinians. This election result is a disaster for the Israeli peace movement and the Israeli left. It is also a disaster for support of Israel in the rest of the world. It continues the disaster for Palestinians who want peace,  political and economic power. 

I have, for several years, stated that I believe the conflict between Palestinains and Israel has no end point in sight, but that the two peoples are locked in a cycle of violence that is self-perpetuating. Based on history, I don't believe that Israeli political leadership of the past couple of decades, or more, have any real interest in peace and the creation of a Palestinian State. They have been two-faced, talking peace out of one side, while continuing the occupation and the illegal land grabs out of the other side. (see Note 2) Yes, the Israel-Palestine situation is very, very complex, and simple answers do not exist. But smart and serious people on both sides can certainly find a way to interrupt the cycle of violence and find solutions. Benjamin Netanyahu, and the interests he represents, are not these people. 

I am more disappointed than upset by the Israel election result. The state of politics in Israel is, after all, not much different than the state of politics in the United States and the rest of the world. Have we Americans already forgotten George W. Bush? We elected that dangerous politician twice! And we are still dealing with the result of those elections. Our House and Senate are now controlled by the Republican right wing. America is dancing with fascism. What about Europe, China, Russia, the Arab states, Africa, South America? Israel absolutely has no lock on right wing politics. 

Does the election really mean that a two-state solution is out of reach? Maybe; maybe not. After all, above all else, Benjamin Netanyahu is a politician. And politicians very often say one thing during a campaign, and another thing once elected. But maybe this is a good turn of events. Maybe the clear admission by Netanyahu that he and his backers will not endorse a two-state solution is a way to move the discussion to a different level. Join fact, it appears that there were some very important gains in the Israel election for women, Arab Israelis and other groups.

The real losers here are the Palestinians, such as those in the West Bank, who are faced with a continuation of an illegal and often brutal occupation.

It might be that the world has entered a period of human right-wingism that will last for some time until it plays itself out. In that case, we progressives and other left-of-center folk need to hunker down for the long-term, and do all we can to fight back (and drink more red wine).

What we don't need to do is bash Israel alone for it's right-wingedness; after all, this seems to be the    sad state of affairs of most of the world.

1. The article is here. It first appeared in Middle East Eye, and this is a link to the "who is" Middle East Eye. I am not certain yet about the credibility of this source; however, the link described would not surprise me.  
2. There are some notable exceptions to this conclusion, such as the efforts of Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.