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The Israeli General Elections in the Aftermath of the Gaza Tragedy

The war against Hamas in Gaza has come and gone. The damage done to Gaza was horrendous, especially the loss of innocent lives and immense suffering of the Palestinian population. Hamas still appears to have its honour intact and there is still sporadic firing of Qassam rockets into Israel despite the declared cease-fire brokered by Egypt. This means that despite the outcome of the war, Hamas remains as adamant and determined as ever not to reach any agreement with Israel or recognize Israel’s right to exist. This will influence the Israeli voting patterns very strongly.

The Israeli General Elections are in the offing and it is very difficult to show any enthusiasm for it. The atmosphere is far from that of the US Election where there was some hope for a new deal for the American people. A fleeting optimism was released when Obama was elected as president of the US. Here in Israel, there is none of that optimism. It will be more of the same and probably even worse for peace.

A very clear trend amongst the Israeli electorate has emerged since the end of this war. It is an almost foregone conclusion that the Likud and the right wing parties will win the elections and the next Prime Minister will be Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli public will swing to the right and racial overtones will be very much of the right wing campaign for votes. Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian immigrant from Moldavia, will become a very important factor. His ideology is similar to the defunct racist Kach Party. His Yisrael Beteinu Party, which is racist and anti-Arab, is embarking on a campaign of citizenship for Israeli Arabs based on their loyalty to the state. This is abominable! What criteria will be adopted to assess Israeli Arab loyalty to Israel? How will this be put into practice? Does he expect Arab citizens of Israel to be Zionists and if not, agree to transfer out of Israel? Lieberman was instrumental in trying to ban the Arab Parties Ra’am –Ta’al and Balad from taking part in the upcoming elections. He even managed to get Labour and Kadima to support preventing these parties from participating in the elections. Fortunately, the High Court overturned the Lieberman-run electoral committee’s decision and these parties will be participating.

The elections this year are very lack luster with a plethora of has-beens such as Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu attempting re-election as Prime Minister. There is also Tzippi Livni also having a go for that position. All in all the choice is not great. A vote for the Likud-Labour-Kadima triumvirate is not going to bring peace any closer to this region. After all, there is not much difference between these three parties. In any case, Yisrael Beiteinu will also be a part of this new government which will give its citizens pretty much of the same.

The voter who happens to be left has a real problem in deciding for whom to vote. Meretz is not the Meretz of the stalwarts such as Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid. It is a rather watered-down version of what it once was. The fact that Meretz supported the war effort in the beginning, despite the terrible loss of innocent lives, has driven many potential voters on the left away. The Arab Parties are no less one-issue than the extremist right wing Zionist parties are.

It is as if both the extreme right wing of Israel and Hamas has a common language in assuring that peace will never occur. Both sides are against a two state solution and both sides survive on unrest and hatred. It seems as if Hamas would like to see an extreme right wing government in Israel. This is obvious from the cease-fire violations that they have committed. Every missile fired into Israel will garner more votes for Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu Party. This will give Hamas legitimacy by proving that Israel does not want peace. This tactic will work in Lieberman’s favour.

The choice available to the Israeli voter is large because of the number of small parties participating, but the issues that are so important have not been addressed. Issues such as peace with the Palestinians, economic issues, education and so on have not been addressed by the main parties. Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party behave as if they have won the election. Netanyahu who always seems to have plenty to say at election time has remained silent. When he does open his mouth he utters some banality.

The religious parties such as Shas and Torah Judaism will wait for the juicy pickings from the winning party in order to feather their own religious nests. They will do almost anything to become part of the coalition after the elections. They need the tax payers’ money to maintain their religious institutions of bigotry. The easiest way they can achieve this is to extort whichever government comes into power after the elections. This scenario takes place every time once the elections are over and the results are finalized.

The voter’s choice in this lack-luster election is poor. The left wing has been shattered by Hamas violence that resulted in the Gaza War. Even on the left, there are those who supported the war and only after the injuries and deaths of innocent Palestinians became known, they did an about turn and ceased to support the war.

Israel maintains that Hamas used the Palestinians as human shields and this caused the loss of lives of many innocent Palestinians. Weapons had been hidden in the homes of many Palestinians who had been coerced under the pain of death to shelter Hamas militants and their armaments. Whether this is true has to be verified. Israel is also not truthful in its assessments of the situation and the total secrecy that it had declared on any information coming out of Gaza. Under these conditions it is very difficult to assess the entire truth of the Gaza operation.

The “disproportionate reaction” of Israel against the Palestinians and not only against Hamas is there for all to see. One cannot help not being outraged by the total destruction of many homes and towns in Gaza. The aimless wonderings of victims of IDF retaliation looking for their possessions and families buried in the rubble is heart rending.

Israel’s reaction to the rockets fired into Israel by Hamas militants over the last 8 years is understandable. The heavy loss of innocent Palestinian lives is not justifiable.

While Hamas does not show any signs of wishing to negotiate with Israel or recognizing Israel’s rights to exist makes it very difficult if not impossible to reach an agreement with them. Despite this, one must also remember that Israel is an expert at double talk. On the one hand Israel claims that it has no desire to rule over another people while in practice, settlements on the West Bank are being expanded and new settlements are even being built. This surely results in the displacement of Palestinians and the encroachment of Jewish settlers into their agricultural lands. This also results in another nail being hammered into the coffin of the two-state solution. Even the Labour Party under Ehud Barak has been instrumental in establishing new settlements by stealth in the occupied territories.

The dilemma of the Israeli left for whom to vote has never been greater than in these elections. Labour is not left anymore but a slightly watered down version of the Likud and even Kadima. All three parties would even be prepared to sit with Lieberman despite his repulsive and racist ideology. Meretz has not tackled the important issues of peace in these elections. Perhaps they felt that discussing peace would lose it votes and it is not popular these days.

For the Jewish, secular non-Zionist left, the choice is even poorer. All that remains is to vote for a party that makes Jewish and Palestinian coexistence and equality a central part of its platform as well as remaining democratic in its ideology. This could send a strong message to the right wing racist Zionists of Avigdor Lieberman ideology that his message as well as the message of the right wing religious parties is unacceptable.

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Important discussion. I am curious to know what others think of the elections in Israel. Please reply.
As a left wing voter, I don't have much hope as for who will win this elections. I think Netanyaho would be the worst result, but neither Barak nor Livni give me much hope either. The fact that Liberman will most probably be the head of the third big party is scary. Not just that I am worried about what he can do, but also I am worried because he represent a dangerous way of thinking that became stronger amongst the people after the Gaza war. Liberman is mirroring the fears and despair of many people here, leading them to hate prejudices and suspicions.
As for me I vote for Hadash, the Arab-Hebrew party. This is the third time I vote for them, this time without any real alternative. I do believe in coexistence and cooperation between Arabs and Jews, and I think we have more chances achieving this if we thrive to it with joining powers.
I think that the reason why Israelis support the right wing is because of the attacks on southern Israel by Hamas. They feel that the left (and wrongly so) will do everything to appease the Palestinians and in their view sell out to Hamas. This is a genuine fear amongst many Israelis. They seek a strong "Mr Security" that will not hesitate to retaliate against Hamas using "disproportionate force" in order to bring Hamas to surrender. The right wing took advantage of these fears and it obviously worked and Lieberman's strength as well as the Likud increased. This support is based on fear and not on logic. The anti-Arab racist genie worked to their advantage.The only solution is a state solution by direct or even indirect negotiations to come to a cease-fire that will hold out indefinitely and with time, Hamas will learn to be pragmatic. Hitting Gaza and the innocent citizens has failed to stop the firing of Qassams into the south of Israel.

Meretz and Labour collapsed in these elections. The former, because of its initial support of the Gaza War resulting in a split between their party and resulting in many disappointed Meretz supporters supporting Hadash. The latter failed to woo voters because of their sitting on the fence and not showing a clear alternative to Likud or Kadima and even compromising on their principles for the sake of being in a coalition with the right wing - even with Lieberman despite Barak saying that Lieberman is not exactly "his cup of tea". If Labour is not strong on its principles it cannot expect to woo voters which it did not.
I am scared to dead, Eyal. Since yesterday i am really feeling sick, i want to cry all the time, i feel I am loosing my country.

but I hope to have more time later to come back here and talk about this matter with less emotions.
Dear Leila,

As mother of three children and grandmother of one granddaughter, I am scared to death too. My children and friends here in the Netherlands say, that I make troubles for myself unnecessary. Tht I take a burden, which is not mine. But I am sure that any mother feels the pain of any mother, grandmother or sister in Israel, wether she might be a Zionist, Askenazi, Sephardim, Palestinian from Gaza or Westbank, or abroad.

This what whole humankind is allowing to happen to all of you is demonic. We in the west have had twice a worldwar of 5 years. This situation, where you all are living in, is taking 62 years of most lives, but for som even from 1937?
So that means that from 124-144 Worldwars after each other, without hardly a break, you all are trying to survive, or defend yourselves. It is hard to imagine and I am wondering, how where you all get the power from.

I am very sure that it becomes a kind of reaction on default, misused by heartless 'Zionists"who even are no Jews at all, I understand. Those who would be able to lead you spiritually and religiously did not survive in WW II.
And if it was up to some bankers, and some world warlords, they would go on by using the whole region as guinea-pigs ( white phosphor, D.I.M.E. and mind control projects)for their dark plans. Even humanity as a whole is not aware, that we all are influenced and most of us are so numbed, that they even are not aware that the whole world lived for years in a WW III and that we are going to WW IV, if we as humanity do not have the courage to say "enough is enough"

Be proud of your tears,
Farida
the fact
every election in israel .must israel make mascure in gaza or west bank .
israel leader .know they people . if they want to win in election . they must do mascure in gaza or west bANK .BECAUSE israeli people beleive this one will became to them peace .in fact will come to the suffer .
these fact i see it by mu eye from 2000 to 2004 in gaza . after that i hear it in news .
isarel need war not peace
Dear Basil:
I lived in the US for nearly 30 years before moving back to Palestine. I think you do not understand that Washington is also Israeli occupied territory. I do not foresee any circumstances in the near future where the US would pressure Israel. The only hope is that the war economy in the US is getting so bad and many Americans are starting to see that the economic downfall is related to the AIPAC lobbies for endless wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and soon Iran). Obama is in a bind caught between hsi liberal tendencies/his understanding of teh harm being done to the US and the more obviousreality that the president cannot change much without Congress and taht Congress is run by AIPAC.
As for Israeli elections, the politicians there argue about how to steer the (Titanic) ship that they built and about its metal structure and about shooting icebergs after it has already hit the iceberg and is sinking. But maybe this is not teh best metaphor. Israel can be salvaged but only if it abandons racism whether it be Labor Zionist variety or Likud Zionist variety. It can transform itself and become a "light unto the nations". There are many Israelis who are trying hard to do that. On Saturday in Beit Sahour we hard from 5 "refusenicks" (young Israelis who refused to go to teh military and were jailed). I found myself mesmerized by how intelligent and perceptive these 18-19 year olds were. Perhaps they should be the ones leading Israel instead of the ossified 65-85 year old racist Zionists. Alas, for us Palestinians having seen the horrors of 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1987, 2000, and 2008... we can only expect more of the same lunacy as in the past. But at least some of us are learning to resist in smarter ways. The next uprsiing will be interesting to see. And the growth of teh boycotts, divestments, and sanctions movement around the world (including in teh heart of Israel) is even more encouraging. It maybe the only way to save Israel from itself.
Dear Basil:
The US is not monolithic. I never stated that it is hopeless to change the situation. To the contrary, I worked with deeds and words to efect a change and we did see some movement thanks to collective efforts of thousands (including many consciensious American Jews). Kissinger has always been a Zionsit and he is a war criminal for so many things (take hsi support for the genocides committed by Suhartu in indonesia). He never pressured Israel and had nothing to do with the "peace deal" that came afterwards. He actually did everything in his power to prevent any pressure on Israel for peace. In 1973, he saved Israel from having to do a dignified peace with Israel by providing unlimited military aid (while Nixon was weak with Watergate scandal), by getting Congress to give Israel unlimited oil even when the US was short on oil, and by later getting an agreement that says the US guarantees Israel's military superiority over ANY combinations of Arab states.

But anyway, I do agree with you this unlimited US support will come to an end. I spent years working on this and still do. I was not describing the future but was describing the past. I suspect that either the Gaza slaughter or the slaughter in the next war will be looked at as the proverbial straw that broke teh camel's back. Electing Lieberman and Netanyahu will also help finally put teh nail in the coffin in the myth taht Israel is a liberal democracy. That can only speed up the day of reckoning with US taxpayers.
If I could vote, Hadash would get my vote. It's been so sad and yes, terrifying, to see how many Israelis are swinging toward the right as a result of the violence in Gaza; my instinct would be to go further left! And while it's easy to reject Netanyahu, I'm also really wary of Livni, because I heard her say in an interview that she would work with Lieberman if necessary. Why is talking to Lieberman considered better than talking to Hamas?

I've only been living in Jerusalem for 18 months, so I'd love to hear more from people who are able to vote; who are you going to vote for, and why? How do you think Netanyahu or Livni will communicate with Obama? Does anyone think that either one would do a decent job, or are we in for more of the same either way?
It's about time Jews in the Diaspora had the right to vote in Israel's elections. After all, Israel is said to represent the interests of Jews worldwide, so shouldn't we get the chance to influence its government's decisions?
Maybe the same should happen for the Palestinians in diaspora as well. It would be interesting to see who they would vote for!
I think NO!

Only citizens with the appropriate and related obligations should have that right, in any State.

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