Israel Votes For Apartheid
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) March 18, 2015
There is no use in trying to sweep this under the rug anymore, apartheid is the majority position in Israel. As part of a last minute gambit to win yesterday’s election Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contradicted his own previously stated position and shut the door completely on any peace process by claiming he did not believe in a Palestinian state and there would not be one if he was re-elected. It was opportunistic, it was reactionary, it was a stunning success.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud Party triumphed in yesterday’s election capturing what looks like 30 of the 120 seats in Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. The electoral victory over center-left Zionist Union (24 seats) means Netanyahu will be able to form a governing coalition with far right pro-settler Jewish Home Party and other right wing groups such as the ultra-Orthodox.
Netanyahu’s campaign strategy included more than opposing a Palestinian state, he also leveraged racial anxiety to motivate his voters by claiming “Arabs are coming out in droves to the polls.” Another clearly successful reactionary play.
It is plainly time to stop blaming Netanyahu for Israel’s far right shift, he is, evidently, just following the people there. The people of Israel want the Palestinians in perpetual subjugation, they want ethnocracy, they want apartheid. Netanyahu’s deviation towards full-on reactionary politics is a reflection of an underlying change within the Israeli heart, not a catalyst for the mutation.
Some reading this – BDS supporters in particular – will no doubt find it rather pathetic that it took this election for some of us to discover something so seemingly obvious. In a pre-election analysis that proved almost prophetic, Yonatan Mendel wrote that all major political parties had essentially given up on peace with the Palestinians and backed illegal settlements. Mendel even went so far as to note that there was strong case for the position that it is better for the Labor Party to lose because the only difference between them and Likud is that Labor is better at PR and therefore can more ably avoid international scrutiny for the same terrible behavior.
Maybe some of us did not want to think internal reform was so impossible, that Israel was a more pluralistic and moderate society than its critics gave it credit for. We had hoped that Prime Minister Netanyahu would have to give up his extreme bellicose rhetoric for fear that the pretense would backfire and alienate Israeli public opinion. Unfortunately, we got it exactly wrong. In today’s Israel, moderation is the pretense and Netanyahu prevailed from going even farther rightward.
Given these election results, the issues the winning campaign was run on, and the wishes of the Israeli electorate, it is going to be increasingly difficult – if not impossible – for the American left to align with and support Israel in the future. The common phrase “Israel shares our values” is no longer so easily affirmed nor can it honestly be taken for granted.
BDS still seems like an extreme and overly-confrontational response, but given that an outright severance is not within political reality there seem to be few alternatives. If we are to be inextricably joined with Israel in this special relationship then it’s time for us to take a more active role in changing their behavior. The people there won’t do it.