It might seem incumbent on the media to master the complexities of the relevant political system before covering an election in a given country. However, there is a convenient short cut for lazy minds. You simply spread everything along a left-right axis. This makes it easier to report developments, though it may be totally misleading. The current nonsense is that the Israeli electorate split into two camps in the recent elections, a right-wing bloc headed by Bibi Netanyahu (65 seats) and a left-wing bloc headed by Tsipi Livni (55 seats).
Alas, there is no sizable left-wing block. But there is a right-wing block in Israel politics and it covers quite a bit of the map.
The Likud (27 seats in the new Knesset – 12 before) is a right-wing nationalist party. Kadima (28 seats – 29 before)is a center-right party (created and inspired by the right-wing militarist, Ariel Sharon.) Lieberman’s “Israel is Our Home” (15 seats – 11 in the previous Knesset ) is a right-wing, crypto-fascist, racist concoction. Labor (13 seats as against 19 before) is a right-wing, neo-liberal, Social Democratic entity. Shas is a right-wing fundamentalist clerical party (11 seats, one less than in the previous Knesset). The National Unity Party (4 seats) is the most militant settler party on the right and the open political heirs of Kahana; it splintered from a united list with the “Jewish Home” (3 seats – together they had 9 before). Jewish Home, is a moderate right-wing pro-settler party. Here, you have before you Israel’s the right block.
On the left, the Hadash-Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (4 seats – up from 3) and two other Arab lists (7 seats - unchanged), together with Meretz, (3 seats, 2 down from the previous Knesset) represent the only formations which could be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, to be on the left. There were some important positive developments and achievements in the Hadash campaign. I hope to discuss them and the demise of the Zionist left in a separate communication.
Historical Processes and Current Developments
The parliamentary picture is a direct result of long term processes and the more recent developments in Israeli society. Many observers have noticed that Israeli society from its inception expressed two main characteristics. In many senses, it qualified as a liberal democratic capitalist formation. However, in its deeper structures and dynamics it tended to revert to its colonial origins. Here, the battle to secure and expand the Zionist foothold – geographically and politically, went on continually, usually in the background, but often appearing at the center of events. It is the colonial nature of Israel which figures increasingly in its political make-up.
Groggy With Militarism and Racism
Given the poisonous concoction of militarism and chauvinism that goes for democratic process in present day Israel, it would take more than a miracle for these elections to produce any government conducive to meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. Of course, we do not completely disregard the formal, but fragile nature of democracy in this country. But the substance of political life in this country is to convert Israel’s special relationship with the United States into a privileged strategic, economic and political formation and state-apparatus. These are the historical boundaries of Israeli democracy that predetermine the outcome of elections and other political tensions.
It was not necessary to be a seer to see that the latest murderous expedition in Gaza had all the necessary components needed to push an already frightened and despairing Israeli electorate further to the right. Once again the tedious well known scenario had to be played out. People actually believe that a resounding military victory was frustrated and negated by the “politicians”. In Lebanon before and in Gaza now, we were on the verge of complete and total victory if we had been permitted to complete the job at hand.
The Battle for Regional Ascendancy
From Barak to Lieberman via Likud and Kadima, Israel has been pushing hard for militant action against Iran. Israel led by Olmert, Livni and Barak tried, without success, to push Bush into confrontation with Iran or at the least to receive a U.S. umbrella for an Israeli adventure. It may be a bit more difficult to push Obama down confrontation lane. But Israel is busy installing a government, which for all practical purposes, will say no to negotiations even with the most compliant of the Palestinians. Instead, it will certainly continue building a coalition in Washington and the region pushing for confrontation with Teheran since this is its only excuse it can present for frustrating Washington’s “peace process” The new Israeli government will explain to DC that it cannot move on Palestinian independence before the Persian clouds over the region are dispersed.
Courtship instead of Ex-communication
Would it be possible for the leadership of a democratic society to go courting an openly racist crypto-fascist leader and his party for a central and pivotal role in a new coalition? This courtship is at the center of current bargaining. Could a politician who demanded constitutional changes disenfranchising, on an ethnic-national basis, twenty percent of the citizenry dominate the entire political scene and emerge as the king maker of the next coalition? Lieberman is the most sought after figure in mainstream coalition politics? Is the international diplomatic community which has a hard time rejecting the justified demands to censure Israeli aggression and the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, willing to overlook the influential presence of Lieberman in the next administration? The racist scoundrel is openly calling for the expulsion of entire towns and their population from Israel’s borders. In the face of this criminal drive for transfer of Israel’s Arab citizens, can the international community, governments and citizens alike remain silent as if this is an internal Israeli affair? Is fascism ever an internal affair?
--Reuven Kaminer lives in Jerusalem.