American media outlets have been filled with speculation that the budding alliance between Tzipi Livni’s Ha’Tenuah and Isaac Herzog’s Labor into an odd amalgam called the equally odd, “Zionist Camp,” can win the upcoming March election. Liberal Zionists like Bernard Avishai writing in the New Yorker, offered hopelessly optimistic reports portraying the possibility of a center-left victory. Avishai and other liberal Zionist ‘usual suspects’ like Tom Friedman reveal, in these reports, far more about their own illusions than they reveal about the actual political situation in Israel.
And what is that situation? Look at it this way: it fundamentally doesn’t matter how well Likud does. They may have the same, more or less, mandates than the center-left party. Whatever the outcome for Likud, they will have more than enough like-minded parties to join with them in a ruling far-right coalition. In other words, if you thought this government was the most extreme in Israeli history, the future promises the same or worse.
Look at the latest numbers from a Channel 2 poll published on December 29th:
Bayit Yehudi: 16
Kulanu (Kahlon): 10
Yesh Atid: 9
Yisrael Beitenu: 8
Yahadut Hatorah: 7
Shas (Deri): 6
Arab parties: 11
Ha’Am Itanu (Yishai): 0
If you look at the left-right possibilities here it’s virtually impossible to come up with 60 seats for a center-left coalition. If you combine Labor/Ha’Tenuah, Kulanu, Yesh Atid, Meretz and the Arab parties you still only get 59 votes. Adding Shas (which seems an unlikely prospect), you’d reach 65. But the problem with including the 11 Palestinian party votes is that historically Jewish parties have refused to allow them to participate formally in coalition governments. So a center-left government is exceedingly unlikely, barring a major electoral shift leftward (which itself is exceedingly unlikely).
A rightist government, on the other hand, can easily reach a majority in a variety of ways: Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Bayit Yehudi, Kulanu, Yahadut Torah, and Shas provide 71 seats. Even if one or more of the smaller of these parties doesn’t join the coalition, Bibi still will hold a majority. Even if electoral sentiment shifts between now and March, it will mean a shift among the right-wing parties. Very few voters will switch from the right-wing camp to the center-left. So the numbers will remain roughly the same, even if they’re distributed differently among the rightist parties.
So let’s hear no more of Sugar-Plum fairies and liberal ruling coalitions. Even suggesting the possibility is offering comfort to disconsolate American Jews who fret about Israel’s permanent right-wing majority without being willing to do much to stop it.
As I’ve argued for years, the Labor Party is irrelevant to Israeli political life. Tzipi Livni too is a dinosaur who somehow survived the Jurassic Era. They have nothing to offer the Israeli electorate. No program, no agenda except going along with get along. They claim to support a deal with the Palestinians, but when they or their antecedents (Barak, Olmert) had power they never realized such deals. So there’s no reason to trust them now, even if they were to win (which they won’t). As I’ve written here before, there’s not only no Left in Israeli politics, there’s no center.
I’ve also written here that electoral politics in Israel have lost any meaning. The far-right holds power and will only consolidate it for many elections to come. There is no conceivable way for a center-left coalition to win in the present system, which essentially disenfranchises Israeli Palestinians. This fact makes even more inevitable the one-state solution Israeli Jews have sought to avoid at all costs for decades. If Israel refuses full, equal rights to its Palestinian citizens, then the only recourse is a single state including all the Jews and Palestinians together.
Let this also be a warning to American presidents hoping for Israel to pull a liberal Zionist rabbit out of its hat. It ain’t gonna happen. Obama, you will have the same asshole you had to deal with for the past six years. Or, in the words of the inimitable Who song: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” That’s why U.S. policy is doomed to failure. We will not or cannot intervene in a constructive way.
The only constructive initiative is the PA going to the UN asking for statehood and membership in international bodies like the ICC. These developments will, incrementally change the political environment and eventually permit U.S. presidents and the EU to do the unthinkable and be true honest brokers between the two sides.
The latest results of the Likud primaries (with 40% of the vote counted) show the top 13 spots as:
1) Yuli Edelstein
2) Gil Ardan
3) Israel Katz
4) Miri Regev
5) Silvan Shalom
6) Moshe Yaalon
7) Yariv Levin
8) Tzachi Hanegbi
9) Zeev Elkin
10) Gila Gamliel
11) Yuval Steinitz
12) Dani Danon
13) Tzippi Hotoveli
One of the most extreme of all Likud candidates is Moshe Feiglin, who is running in 17th place and assured of a seat in the coming Knesset barring any meltdowns in Likud popularity. These results confirm the hard-right ascendancy in Likud.
UPDATE/Correction: Further updates of the results show that Feiglin has not won enough primary votes for a seat and will not be in the next Knesset. However, there are plenty of other Likud ideologues vying to replace him by being as extreme as he is or worse. So those of you hoping for building the Third Temple or expelling Palestinians from Israel or Palestine: not to worry. There will be plenty of others outdoing each other for the moniker of “most rabid Likudnik.
For a similar Palestinian perspective, read this.
NOTE: I’ve just installed a new plugin, Readygraph, which offers subscribers e mail notifications and connects my blog to their social media accounts. All this helps promote my site both within your own personal and social media networks. I have read mixed reviews of the plugin. Please let me know if it causes you any particular problems in using the site.
Nigeria’s Igbo Jews: ‘Lost tribe’ of Israel?
Bribing Goodluck Jonathan delivered the crucial 5th abstention at the UNSC for Kerry and Netanyahu. Why didn’t Abbas wat a few days for this vote as the countries that form the Security Council will be changed – friends of Israel Australia and Rwanda will be replaced with Venezuela and Malaysia!
Richard Silverstein says
@ Oui: Perhaps he wanted to justify joining the ICC, as he did today. By the time he applies again for statehood in the UNSC, he’ll have the extra cudgel of being able to file war crimes charges if the Council rejects statehood (again).
@Oui – Maybe he just have a hard case of “Victim Syndrome”.
It is entirely unclear to me why people insist that Kulanu (Kahlon) and Yesh Atid (Lapid) can be counted to join a centre-left block.
Kahlon comes from the Likud, and the righter bits thereof. Lapid and his lap-dogs have established a track record of voting right to far right and talking righter yet.
Livni has gone on record that “Jerusalem shall remain united and ours” – that is hardly a left-leaning statement.
Truth be told – there is precious little left in Israeli politics. Meretz is slightly left. That’s pretty much it in the Jewish circle. Hadash is left. All else is either right, religious or religious-right.
Feiglin has actually no chance of being a MK. When you add to the list you’ve published the people that have a spot saved for them, he ranks at 37 (after 55% of the votes were counted).
The complete list is in the link below:
Richard Silverstein says
@ Shay: I figured out that I was missing something when I heard Feiglin was out. I hadn’t taken into account the reserved spots, as you have.
This opinion piece in Haaretz has fallen on deaf ears after the ‘military victories’ of Israel. Also, it was not prophetic at all.
○ The year 5765 has been the year of the new Israeli majority.
Looking back, it is clear now that it was the span of one day that shaped all of 5765. On October 26, 2004, in Jerusalem, a little after 8 P.M., the Knesset approved the disengagement plan by a majority of 67 to 45. Twenty-four hours later, in Ramallah, Yasser Arafat’s bodily systems collapsed. Had Arafat collapsed two days earlier, the results of the vote in the Knesset would have been different. Had he not collapsed at all, the results of disengagement process would have been entirely different. A coincidence that was seemingly produced by a hidden hand led to the fact that, at one and the same time, Israelis gathered their courage to try to remove the curse of the occupation and the Palestinians were freed from the sorcery of a destructive father of the nation.
Peace Option Is More Distant Than Ever
○ U.S. cables, Palestinian papers quote then-Israeli PM Ariel Sharon eyeing negotiated withdrawals from West Bank | Nov. 2004 |
Final results are out and Feiglin is out. Does it mean Likud as not far out right as it was pictured by some? I’m waiting to hear how this fact is played down.
Ariel – Feiglin may be out, but Danon, Regev, Levin, Elkin, Gamliel, Edelstein, Akunis. So – we are lucky not to have one of the rabid racists in, but what about the above select group. They certainly would be able to find an apt place in Carlin’s skit about balancing the budget.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Ariel: You truly must be out of your mind not to realize how not just right wing, but extremist Regev & the rest of the Likud MK clowns are. Do you need us to list the outrageous racist statements of those who won seats in the primary??
No question it is right wing party. I just wanted to brighten your 1st day of 2015 🙂
○ Erdan on top after dramatic day for Likud; Miri Regev upsets senior party figures
One of the surprising results of the Likud primaries was MK Miri Regev exceeding expectations and catapulting to fourth place on the list – making her the leading female in the Likud. Regev, backed by retired minister Sa’ar, managed to place within the top five and make her mark as the most powerful woman in the Likud. Regev, who was placed on an election ‘hit list’, overcame stern opposition by relying on a strong ground game prepared ahead of the elections – despite public pressure from as high up as Prime Minister Netanyahu.
In Israel there are Zionist Jews (some 99%) and some anti-Zionist Jews (some 1%). When it comes to the geography of the state of Israel, I cannot distinguish between one Zionist and another (they all want the Arabs out): Zipi Livni was born and grew up as a Revisionist (the old Herut party which eventually became Likud; to, somehow, label Livni as centre while running on the same ticket as Labour (left) takes quite a brain to grasp. No, Livni did not change, the Labour party is, still, that of Ben Gurion and none of them is capable or willing to concede anything to the Arabs.
Right and Left are economic and, definitely, not political terms. The outcome of the March elections may affect the poverty level in Israel and will change nothing vis a vis the “peace process” – it will continue to be a piss process.
“There is no conceivable way for a center-left coalition to win in the present system, which essentially disenfranchises Israeli Palestinians.”
Richard, I’m curious as to your definition of “conceivable”. A swing of a few seats or so could make the difference and Channel 2’s poll’s margin of error is +/-4.5%. You’re so committed to your pessimist narrative that you managed to write off the last two major peace efforts. “They claim to support a deal with the Palestinians, but when they or their antecedents (Barak, Olmert) had power they never realized such deals. So there’s no reason to trust them now…” It wasn’t Barak and Olmert who reject those deals and you know that. Also how does the system “essentially disenfranchises Israeli Palestinians”?
Richard Silverstein says
For a center left coalition to win there would hv to be a swing of 10 votes. The only way for this to happen is for Israeli Palestinians to increase their voting participation commensurate w Israeli Jewish participation, which won’t happen till the system offers them full equal rights. As for Olmert & Barak, they never offered a deal Palestinians could sell to their constituents. It was too little, too late.