Netanyahu Emerges Weakened, But Most under Israeli Apartheid were Disenfranchised

Early returns for the Israeli elections suggest that turnout was high in secular areas like Tel Aviv and in some Palestinian-Israeli districts, whereas it was low in conservative strongholds. As a result the combined Likud coalition with Yisrael Beitenu only got about 31 seats (the Israeli parliament has 120). Likud is a far rightwing party based on the Fascist political philosophy of Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1930s, while Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) is a far right nationalist party based on Russian, Ukrainian and other former Soviet Bloc populations, many of them only nominally Jewish or not actually Jewish at all, who were economic emigrants to Israel. There is likely no government in Europe as far right wing as Israel’s, and if there were it would be a scandal that attracted boycotts.

Netanyahu is convinced that he will still be able to cobble together the 61 seats needed, at a bare minimum, for a majority in the Knesset. This outcome, however, is by no means a sure thing. Even if he can win a third term, his government will be fragile and deeply divided. One of his likely coalition partners, a centrist newcomer, wants to end the exemption from conscription into the military granted Haredim or ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have grown to 8% of the population and may well, because of large families, become an even larger percentage of Israelis in the coming two decades. The Haredim, most of them backers of Netanyahu, really, really don’t want to serve in the army. So Netanyahu’s cabinet could be quite fractious this time.

The Israeli Left was given a boost in the summer of 2011, when youth demonstrated against the Neoliberal economic policies of the Likud government, which is market-oriented even if that means young people cannot afford to rent an apartment anywhere near their work in e.g. Tel Aviv. Many of the youth mobilized for those demonstrations appear to have come out to vote for centrist parties on Tuesday. It should be noted that the Israeli right wing plays dirty tricks on the Israeli left and liberals, smearing them as traitors and harassing them (many of the nearly 1 million Israelis living outside Israel were leftists unwilling to live under Likud harassment. Such treatment of these Israelis acts as a form of voter suppression.

The 20% of Israelis of Palestinian heritage do not usually vote in larger numbers. They face so much discrimination that it is hard to convince them that anything good can come from an Israeli election. Moreover, the Israeli Right keeps trying to throw elected Arab parliament members out of parliament, sending a signal that even when Palestinian-Israelis do join in the process, attempts will be made to blunt their influence.

But the scandal, and one that Freedom House just ignored (detracting from its credibility) is that 4 million Palestinians living under Israeli control could not vote in these elections. They could not vote because they are stateless. They are not citizens of any state. And Netanyahu is committed, despite occasional whitewashing of his position in public, to keeping the Palestinians without a state. But Israel controls the air, water and land of Palestine, and dictates Palestinian lives.

It is time to stop using the language of “military occupation” for what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. A military occupation occurs during and immediately after a war and is temporary. Israel has had the Palestinians since 1967, and it isn’t letting them go. (No, the Israelis haven’t withdrawn from Gaza; they won’t let Palestinians there so much as export most of what they produce, won’t let them have a seaport or airport, and even interfere in their fishing; and occasionally they bomb them and invade or threaten to invade; what kind of a ‘withdrawal’ is that? And what exactly is there here that Palestinians should have been ‘grateful’ for, as Netanyahu keeps asserting?)

Israel has annexed the Palestinians but is keeping them stateless. There is no other country in the world engaged in so cruel an enterprise. Some countries do subject neighboring territories and annex them, but they give citizenship, or the rights typically enjoyed by citizens, to the people there. The locals may not want that particular political identity, but at least they have a passport and they have the rights of citizens under the law. Moreover, such unincorporated territories are typically tiny compared to the metropole. The 4 million Palestinians are almost as numerous as the 5.5 million Jewish Palestinians (and that is not counting the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, etc., who would go to the West Bank if they could).. The Palestinians are stateless and without basic rights. Their territory has been annexed and they have been kept in legal limbo. When Netanyahu announced that he would build housing on the E-1 tract of Palestinian territory east of Jerusalem, Palestinians put up a tent city on Palestinian-owned private land. Netanyahu had it torn down. Stateless people don’t have real property rights, or any rights at all, and Netanyahu could do as he pleased to them.

Within Israel, the turnout in Tuesday’s election could be as high as 70%, out of over 5 million eligible voters. But in fact turnout was less than half of the people of Israel and its annexed territories. If all the people living under the control of the Israeli government could vote, we would be discussing how many seats in the Knesset went to Hamas, Fatah and the PFLP, and whether Fatah would join a centrist coalition against Netanyahu.

What we hear from Ramallah, Bethlehem and Khan Younis is instead the silence of the stateless, the helplessness of the colonized, the groans of Apartheid.

27 Responses

  1. The latest news from Israel is an even 60/60 split in the 120-seat Knesset between traditional Likud bloc allies and center-to-left parties. 66% of the electorate voted.

    Shelly Yacimovich, leader of the Labor Party, expressed doubts whether Netanyahu can pull together a coalition. Labor is expected to receive 15 Knesset seats.

    The leftist Meretz Party, who strongly supports peace with Palestinians and two-state solution with most West Bank Jewish settlements dismantled, will at least double the number of Knesset seats they held (from three to six or seven). Hadash (formerly Israeli Communist Party and having Arab and Jewish membership) and Arab List also received several seats.

    The surprising news is that Ariel Sharon’s Kadima is struggling to get a maximum of two Knesset seats when their former leader Ehud Olmert was elected prime minister in 2006.

    Yisrael Beitenu did rather poorly – only getting 11 seats.

    Overall, the center and left did rather well – better than expected in the election.

  2. Juan I’m no fan of Netanhayu, but to say Likud is based on fascist idealogically is ridiculous, and contradicted later in your piece when you note that they have pursued neoliberal economic policies. A hallmark of fascism is cooperation between the economy and the state; Netanyahu is a free market capitalist in the mold of Mitt Romney. I hope you can correct this in your piece.

    • In today’s context, it is entirely possible for a government to follow neo-liberal economic policies and fascist political ideals. It’s not an either-or proposition.

      While Mr. Netanyaho pursued a Romney-like fiscal policy, which has has crippled Israel’s economy, his treatment of the Palentinians – and Arabs who live inside Israel – is a disgrace. Between depriving them of the ability to earn a living to siezing their property for expanded settlements, the Prime Minister is doing to Arabs and Palestinians what he-who-must-not-be-named did to Jews. The only difference between Israel’s government today and Germany’s in the 1930s and 1940s is the lack of gas chambers. But an argument can be made that Gaza is not much more than a modern version of a very large Warsaw ghetto.

    • Mitt Romney is not a free market capitalist. Look beyond the slogans and you’ll see that he’s very much in favor of government working as an agent of corporate CEOs.

      (Which it does waaaay too much in the US — read the _Naked Capitalism_ blog for some examples).

      I don’t know whether Netenyahu is a free marketeer or a corporatist-should-own-government type, but I do know what Romney was.

  3. ‘(many of the nearly 1 million Israelis living outside Israel were leftists unwilling to live under Likud harassment. Such treatment of these Israelis acts as a form of voter suppression.’

    Is this based on anecdotal evidence or is there a reference for this information, out of curiosity?

  4. Dear Juan: Your (accurate) description evokes in me Gilad Atzmon’s words, and music.
    What Israel’s government has been doing to the Jews is sad, tragic.

  5. Glad to see the mention of Jabotinsky, the 1930s Jewish fascist from Poland who belonged to Betar, a paramilitary Jewish nationalist org much like the Brownshirts in Germany or the Blackshirts in Italy during the same era. His view is still current in today’s Israel, i.e., the natives will eventually have no choice but to accept Zionism if an absolutist line is taken against them. The Arabs will eventually see that struggle is useless and accept Israel as the Jewish state.

    • Ze’ev Jabotinsky has more public places named after him in Israel than any other Jewish leader. His secretary was PM Netanyahu’s father (who passed away last year at age 102). He advocated Revisionsit Zionism and the notion of “Greater Israel”.

      His name is rarely mentioned outside Israel, but among a large percentage of Israelis, he is seen as a legendary figure whose political theories are highy regarded.

      • I have noted it previously, but it cannot be emphasized enough. Many of Israel’s founders, including Jabotinsky, Menachim Begin (a leader of the Irgun Zvai Leumi) and Yitzhak Shamir (a leader of the Stern Gang), as well as others, were bloody terrorists, willing to shed anyone’s blood who they perceived stood in the way of their goal. They killed Arabs and British officers, as well as Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN Representative. It is noteworthy that both Begin and Shamir went on to become Prime Ministers of Israel.

        • I’m sure you wouldn’t denounce Mandela because he used terror as a tool of liberation.
          The past informs the present but it is also true that the present informs the past. We now view Mandela as the great man he truly is because of how he acted once liberation was achieved. We rightly denounce the heirs of Revisionism because they continue doing criminal acts after they have achieved Zionism’s goal.
          Even Ehud Barak said the following in 1998: “If I were a young Palestinian, it is possible I would join a terrorist organization.” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

        • You could also have mentioned Ariel Sharon, who led an IDF unit linked to the massacre of Arabs in Kibya in 1954 and of negligence by the Kahane Commission in connection with his role as defense minister in the massacre by Phalangists of 1,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

          Sharon, as a cabinet minister, once was interviewed while being chauffeuered through Gaza and emphasized to a journalist that was interviewing him that the Gazans needed to be shown force.

          Begin commanded the Irgun at Deir Yassin, a neutral Arab village near Jerusalem, where over 200 villagers were killed. The Irgun saw Deir Yassin as having propaganda value as they felt news of it would deter Arabs from resisting and encourage them to abandon villages.

          Begin would later in a poll of Israelis be named the second most favorite Israeli of all time in a list of the top 100.

          Today the terms “fear” and “deterrent effect” are used by Israeli political and military leaders to describe their relations with Arabs. Ehud Barak indicated that after the Second Lebanon War – the IDF lost its deterrent effect on Hezbollah. After Operation Cast Lead, Israel claimed its deterrent efect was re-established as Gazans understood that rocket attacks would be followed by severe disproportionate military consequences upon them and point to statistics verifying the preciptous decrease of rocket attacks from Gaza following that IDF incursion. A columnist from the liberal Haaretz daily called it an “addiction to force” by Israel.

          Even though there have been serious questions regarding IDF conduct during such military incursions, including claims of war crimes, the Israeli public has supported such wanton violence. Operation Cast Lead, for example, had a 94% approval rating with Israeli Jewish citizens, even though Israel suffered severe diplomatic repercussions and the Goldstone Commission issued a report concluding credible proof of war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed against Gazan civilians.

        • “I’m sure you wouldn’t denounce Mandela because he used terror as a tool of liberation.”

          There is a big difference between a Mandela fighting oppression and striving for equality in an apartheid state already in existence, and the Begins, Shamirs, and Jabotinskys using terror to ethnically cleanse an already-existing Arab population in order to prepare for a state that did not even exist. And they weren’t above killing British Mandate officials and the UN Representative to force their way either. The two situations are not comparable.

      • I recall that Jabotinsky wrote that his Zionist settlers would have to do to the Arabs what the United States did to the Indians. That’s why I’m against Zionism; because America’s great crime was never punished and served as an inspiration for new crimes.

        • @Mark Korori: You wrote in your post that Menachem Begin commanded the Irgun attack on De’ir Yassin. That’s inaccurate. Benzion Cohen commanded the unit.

    • @John:

      Begin commanded the unit and took part in planning the Deir Yassin incursion, but was not personaly present at Deir Yassin.

      Benzion Cohen was personally present at Deir Yassin as the senior leader of the Irgun. He later rose to the rank of major in the Israel Defense Forces after the Irgun dissolved in 1948. He went on to work for Israel in immigration matters, including service in the Mossad.

  6. I’ve been reading Martin Gilbert’s fascinating 2007 book, “Churchill and the Jews.” What I learned for the first time is that, going all the way back to the Balfour Declaration in the early days of the 20th century, the British government (including Churchill, a major supporter of a Jewish homeland in Palestine) insisted on what, today, we call a two state solution.

    As reprehensible as Mr. Netanyahu’s apartheid policies are, he and a segment of Israel’s voters have lost sight of one of the conditions of their country’s creation: That Palestinians are entitled to their own secure home as much as Jews are entitled.

    As an American Jew, I have no sympathy – or tolerance – left any more for the government of Israel, nor for the way organizations such as AIPAC work to manipulate Congress and public opinion. Dr. Gilbert’s book simply confirmed to me that the current government in Israel is as nasty and dark as many of the governments people fled to reach Israel.

    • David Ben-Gurion felt much the same way as does most non-Likud bloc political activists within Israel.

      The Labor Party had been somewhat of a bastion for social equality among Jews and Arabs and for establishment of a two-state solution. This continues to this day as Amir Peretz, a former Labor Party defense minister, spearheaded the seating of the first Arab member of the Israeli cabinet and currently seeks direct peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

      AIPAC has been very successful however in getting Americans to adopt its version of what is right in the region.

  7. You have given your most powerful argument yet against the “two state solution”. It is a sham, a sop thrown to liberals to distract them from the true nature of Israel and its government. Until we fix Israel there can be no peace. The two state solution is just a way for Israel to get rid of its unwanted population while leaving Israel unreformed.

  8. While it is good to see that the Israeli electorate is not as rightwing as its leaders and it has to some extent humiliated the extreme right politicians, it is the sign of how far the country has moved to the right when one can refer to Yarid Lapid as a centrist. While he is certainly an improvement on some of the scary people on the right of Israeli politics, if quotes attributed to him are correct, he is by no means a moderate politician in favor of negotiating an honorable deal with the Palestinians.

    Arutz Sheva recently quoted him saying: “What I want is not a new Middle East, but to be rid of them and put a tall fence between us and them.” The important thing, he added, is “to maintain a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel.” Regarding the status of Jerusalem that the international community and international law demand that should be divided or jointly run by the Israelis and Palestinians, Lapid said: “The Palestinians must be brought to an understanding that Jerusalem will always remain under Israeli sovereignty and that there is no point for them in opening negotiations about Jerusalem.” link to israelnationalnews.com

    So any coalition between Netanyahu and Lapid would ensure the continuation of former policies, with a veneer of respectability for those policies as the result of Lapid’s so-called centrist position.

    • Farhang, from reading the AP report (today, 6:37pm) I got the same ideas about Lapid that you expressed. It doesn’t sound like he will be using adherence to the peace process as anything more than a political negotiating tool. It was interesting though, the spin put on the AP piece, they really did keep going back to the peace issue as though this was the important issue — it’s what the world wants, but I don’t think Israel is interested.

      many thanks, Juan, for your good report and background on makeup of the Israeli government.

    • Yair Lapid is the son of Yossi Lapid, former deputy prime minister under PM Ariel Sharon. He was known for taking a very hard line against both Palestinians and religious Jews within Israel. His son mirrors his father’s views.

      Yair Lapid’s focus is on domestic issues affecting the middle class.

  9. The statelessness of the Palestinians adds to the misery of Palestinians who have fled Syria. They have nowhere to go but to camps in Lebanon that were built in 1948. They’re living 20 to a room with no water, toilets, electricity. Jordan will not accept these refugees,saying Israel would use that as an excuse to send Palestinians to Jordan. Abbas asked Israel for permission to allow some Syrian Palestinians to come to the West Bank. Israel agreed to let them come if they signed away their right to return to Israel. Abbas rejected this saying it’d be better for them to die in Syria than give up their right of return.
    Granting citizenship to all in the West Bank and Gaza would not necessarily solve the problems of refugees in the nearby countries, but they would also be in a better position to demand rights from some state.

  10. Juan, you’re quite right. An occupation is temporary. To support your point, you could point to the Israeli Hebrew term for it.

    The Israeli Hebrew word for it is כיבוש — kibush — meaning very simply and clearly: conquest. It’s not called an “occupation” but quite honestly a conquest. The territories and the people within them are simply conquered.

    • “The territories and the people within them are simply conquered.”

      That is why Israel created, and continues to expand, the settlements on the West Bank, to create irreversible “facts on the ground.”

  11. “And what exactly is there here that Palestinians should have been ‘grateful’ for, as Netanyahu keeps asserting?)”

    Oh, le’s not be coy, I’m sure you know—he’s saying Palestinians should be grateful that Israelis haven’t pursued open genocide against them, you know, just killed them all outright. He’s saying they should be very thankful that they are allowed to live at all, and they better accept whatever low quality of life Israelis are pleased to let them have.

  12. I just saw that North Korea is pumping up its threats against the USA. Then I suddenly got the idea that North Korea and Iran are working in Tandem. Sanctions are hurting Iran right now but there is not much productive that they can do to help themselves. The North Koreans on the other hand can help them out by threatening to drag the US in to a serious Asian Land War in which there is no potential pot of oil waiting at the end of the war.
    The only thing is I do not think that there is anyone in the US administration that would be able to figure out this linkage. If there were would they care? After all one war is as good as another to boost sales for the Mic.

    • There is no one in the US administration who “is able to figure out the Linkage” between North Korea and Iran, Corpral Clinker, because there is no linkage. North Korea is not acting as a cat’s paw for Iran.

      Furthermore, the US is not going to get into a “serious Asian Land War,” as you suggest. Where do you get your informatiohn?

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