Breaking a long silence on Israel

Somehow I tried to turn this into a blog of such epic proportions that I forgot where it started. Well screw that garbage. I’m gonna bring this back to where it belongs and hopefully that’ll encourage me to write more often. What you need is my opinions.

Over the past six years I have kept up with Israeli politics more or less in silence. After living there for a year I turned my back on the nation that, through my experiences, became known to me as a hotbed of political corruption, systematic racism, hatred, and everything that Zionism was not supposed to be.

I had spent my childhood viewing Israel as a heroic nation and after seeing first hand what that heroism had wrought, I turned away. But though I generally kept my mouth shut (opening it only from time to time in almost exclusively Jewish settings, surrounded by those who still saw Israel through naïve, rose-colored lenses), I managed to continue observing.

Today the news showed that Bibi Netanyahu and his (for lack of a better word) racist amalgamation of right-wing groups Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu (“our home Israel”) failed to win nearly as many seats in the Israeli parliament (knesset) as in the previous election. Simultaneously, a new party, Yesh Atid (“there is a future”) won nineteen seats (out of 120; Likud Yisrael Beiteinu won thirty-one).

Let me be clear: Israel is no longer a Democratic nation, and though it has elections, there is a clear and unavoidable distinction between the Democratic Israel inside the green line (and even there the lines of “democracy” are blurry at best) and the segregated, non-Democratic West Bank. The election results represent those of citizens, ignoring the millions of disenfranchised, less-than-second-class non-citizen occupied Arabs in the West Bank who do not get to vote.

And even still, the right is losing ground. In total, the far right parties lost nine seats, and Kadima, a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing “centrist” (read: right) party lost another twenty-six. The Arab parties gained ground, and a new, populist party gained a right-hand seat.

Of course, Netanyahu and his friends still retain power. And I maintain no hope toward immediate change. Truthfully, I maintain no hope toward gradual change either. Yesh Atid is populist, but has thus far ignored any issues relating to the Arab population either outside Israel or occupied within. In fact, it seems as though their main goal is to force army participation by the ultra-Orthodox, which I do in fact support (a post for a later time).

I don’t want this to be too long so perhaps I’ll continue it later. But for now I will say this: Israel, on its greater than ten-million mile journey toward reaching the goals of true Zionism, moved forward one quarter inch today. There’s a long damn way to go.

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  • Yoni Nadiv

    Several disconnected thoughts:

    Arabs inside Israel's green line vote and are full citizens. The arab parties picked up 11 seats this election.

    Kadmia did not lose 29 seats. They currently have 21 in this Knesset, and I think have 3 for this coming knesset. The main reasons for this include tzipi livni leaving to form her own party (Hatnua) and yesh atid's popularity.

    I see every reason to be hopeful after this election's results. A very likely result of the success of Yesh Atid (a very centrist party) is that Netanyahu will form is government with him. This is almost guaranteed. Habayit Hayehudi will likely also join. A very likely outcome is that the Hardei parties (shas and UTJ) are out of the coalition (because Yair Lapid would never be a part of them – too many of his proposals of religious equality and hardei drafting to the army would put him at odds). The more speculative parts of the coalition is whether Hatnua or Kadmia will join.

    In the end, the coalition of the 19th knesset will be a center-right government instead of a far right government. We were at risk of someone like avigdor lieberman being the foerign minister when now we might have Yair Lapid. There is a lot of reason for hope.

    • Arab Israeli citizens inside the green line vote. Arabs in the west bank do not. That's about 2.6 million occupied and disenfranchised Palestinians versus about 1.4 million Arabs who can vote.

      Kadima lost 26 seats (from 28 last election to 2 this election.)

      And I agree that center-right is better than extreme right. But I don't believe this will do anything to solve the issue of "two Israels," bring true peace talks to the table, advance civil liberties, or combat systemic racism.