Israel’s elections: Crucial to understanding the conflict’s future

netanyahu2Social media speculation is hypocritical on a number of issues, but Israel is a particular example. The “Fuck Israel” Facebook pages and posts grew over the summer, when Israel’s brutal crackdown (as well as Hamas’s enabling of and seeming indifference to it) took the lives of more than a thousand Palestinians. First, note the insolence of saying “Fuck Israel,” instead of a measured criticism of the security apparatus in a country where many oppose the occupation as much as outside activists do. Second, these angry social media messages disappeared a few weeks after Israel’s mortars stopped. People seem willing to criticize Israeli crimes, but not to understand or comment upon the complex factors that make the violence possible.

With this in mind, Israel’s interior politics are about to get interesting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of a “center-right” (read: ultraconservative, religious and nationalist) coalition, fired two of his governing partners: Yair Lapid, a Jon Stewart-like former TV journalist and centrist Minister of Finance, and Tzipi Livni, Minister of Justice and a leading voice for the two-state solution. He justified the firings with the assertion that he would “no longer tolerate opposition from within the government.”

Meanwhile. Netanyahu has veered even farther right, as represented by two crucial steps: His patronage of a “Jewish State” bill, which would symbolically alienate Arab Israelis, Palestinians, and other Gentiles, and his unwavering support for Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Neither of these actions bode particularly well for the peace process, or for moving towards Israel’s ideal of a “Jewish and democratic state”.
Netanyahu’s inability to engage with the US and President Obama in particular, who has potential as a moderating force in the peace process, is also threatening the security of both Israel and Palestine. This, however, did have the added benefit of causing an amusing scandal in which an unnamed US official described Netanyahu as “chicken-shit.” Bibi was not amused.

All of this will probably lead Netanyahu to attempt to form an even farther-right coalition to win the upcoming elections, bolstered by Orthodox Jewish extremists and ultranationalists. Opposing him is Isaac Herzog and his Labor Party, who has called for Tzipi Livni and others to help him form a center-left coalition to defeat Netanyahu. Recall that many of the peace process’s tangible gains have taken place under Labor administrations, such as Yitzhak Rabin’s Oslo Accords in the 1990s.

Those on the left interested in the Palestinian cause must take note of more than just Israel’s crimes. If there is any hope at attaining peace, it comes from Netanyahu’s defeat in the upcoming elections. Instead of spouting useless and rather offensive anti-Israel slogans, peace advocates should support the Israeli left. They have the potential to be the torchbearers of a better Israel and Palestine.