Harry Feldman: Israel, A shift even further to the right?

With only a few thousands absentee ballots left to tally, it appears that Israel’s next prime minister is likely to be the Likud’s thuggish Binyamin Netanyahu, as expected.  Recall that the reason this election was called in the first place was that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni was unable to cobble together a coalition following Ehud Olmert’s resignation in disgrace a few months ago.

At that time, when Kadima, Labour, Meretz, and Gil, the pensioners’ party held 60 seats between them, she still needed the religious Shas party to garner a majority in the Knesset, and Shas declined to join her coalition.  Now, with the three parties of the so called ‘left’ scoring a total of 44 seats – Gil has not won any seats in the new Knesset – it will be impossible to form a majority government without including either Likud, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, or Shas, even if she were to invite Hadash, or one of the Arab parties – Ta’al or Balad – which of course is unthinkable.

So I reckon the most probable outcome is that President Peres will ask Netanyahu to form the next government, although it is possible that as the leader of the party with the largest bloc in the Knesset, she will have the first go and either bite the bullet and form a coalition with a party of the ‘right’ or fail to form a coalition within the required six weeks again, in which case, I believe, the role will fall to Netanyahu, anyway.

One way or the other, a party of the ultra right will be in a position to veto any initiative by threatening to leave the coalition and bring down the government.  Not that I think it’s going to make a great deal of difference.  It was, after all, only late in 2005 that the unlamented Ariel Sharon split from Likud, the party he led at the time, to form Kadima, because his Likud colleagues refused to endorse his plan for unilateral ‘disengagement’ from Gaza.  Kadima, like Likud, is inspired by ‘Revisionist’ Zionism.  Livni is an admirer of Vladimir ‘Ze’ev’ Jabotinsky.  When push comes to shove, there’s not much distance between Labour and Revisionist Zionism.  They may appear to be more or less tolerant of Palestinians in the Jewish homeland, but in their heart of hearts, and often enough in their speech, they want them gone one way or another.  Their difference, such as it is, is tactical.

There is one other difference.  Publicly, Labour Zionists have always tried to pretend that they were settling terra nullius.  I think that’s where all this ‘A land without people for a people without land’ and From time immemorial stuff comes from.  Jabotinsky, at any rate, was perfectly explicit about needing to uproot the natives.

Netanyahu, left to his own devices, will not consider relinquishing any part of the West Bank or any Palestinian ‘state’ west of the Jordan.  Livni, if not hamstrung by coalition partners – an unlikely scenario, would complete the wall, annex the main settlements, aquifers, and corridors, and leave the Palestinians on the West Bank in three or four little enclaves divided from each other, as well as from Gaza, and Jordan, by Israeli territory.  Israel will control all borders and airspace.  Basically, Barak’s famous ‘generous offer’.  In short, they would find themselves in much the same situation as Gaza has been since the ‘disengagement’.  True, for a couple of years there were no Israeli soldiers on the streets of Gaza, but I’m not sure encirclement and siege by a ‘hostile entity’ is much of an improvement, if any.

Furthermore, on 3 February, Livni told Globes,

I agree to concede part of the Land of Israel, but the moment I undertake this, it must be clear that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, and a future Palestine is the full national solution for the Palestinians, wherever they are.

In other words, once she permits the Palestinians to print their own postage stamps, whether through negotiations with the quisling PA, or through unilateral ‘disengagement’, those postage stamp size ghettos will be ‘the national home’ of the Palestinians, thereby washing her hands not only of those living in the West Bank and Gaza, but the four or five million refugees.  It’s not absolutely explicit, but she expressed similar sentiments a few months ago, and as I read it, that would mean the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, too.  In this, her position is indistinguishable from Lieberman’s, who campaigned on a platform of requiring Israeli Arabs to take an oath of allegiance to the Jewish state or relinquish their citizenship.  As far as I know, every country requires such oaths of immigrants seeking citizenship, and none demands it of the native born, as it would render them stateless.  If any other country did so, it would meet with howls of indignation, not least from those who applaud Lieberman’s initiative. 

Ultimately, I don’t think it means very much to say this election evidences a shift to the right.  I’ve often criticised opinion polls that ask respondents, mainly in the US, to place themselves somewhere on a continuum between ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ on the grounds that that only comprises a sliver of the political spectrum.  The distance from left to right in Zionist politics is narrower still.  Even Meretz was delighted to see Gaza bombed to smithereens.  From my perspective, it makes no sense to call a party favouring ethnocracy, as all Zionist parties must, by definition, ‘left’.  Left and right are of course relative terms, but I don’t think you can distinguish them by subtle differences over the timing or mechanism of ‘transfer’.

In solidarity,

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