Will the next Israeli Gov’t be even more Far Right & Colonial?

By Mitchell Plitnick (IPS) | —

The Israeli government is headed for yet another round of elections. Although the official election date for the next Knesset is November 7, 2017, no one ever expected this government to last that long. The voting will likely take place in March of 2015.

What do the new elections mean outside of Israel? Nothing very good, I’m afraid. For the most part, any elections held in the foreseeable future are going to cement the status quo even further, and where they don’t do so, elections will mean a shift even further rightward.

In the short term, Europe will likely agree with the United States to keep doing what they’re doing now with regard to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, which is nothing. But in the long term, they are both likely to be saddled with an Israeli government that will be even more blatant about its refusal of any accommodation with the Palestinians, and even more insistent on building more and more settlements, especially in Jerusalem.

There is, however, a good deal of flux in Israeli politics right now. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet. His Gaza operation over the summer is not being viewed positively in Israel, as many see no difference in the situation with Gaza today from earlier in the year. Israelis may agree with many of his stances, but they’re not as keen on the way he executes his policies—they see Netanyahu as having eroded the relationship with the United States and having failed to stem the increasing hostility toward Israel in the rest of the world.

But more than anything else, Bibi’s economic policies have driven down his ratings. Although the Israeli economy writ large is relatively healthy, economic disparity within Israel, even among Israeli Jews, has never been worse, as the distribution of wealth in Israel rivals the extremely skewed scale we have grown accustomed to in the United States. And just like Americans in the United States, most Israelis are primarily concerned with the economy, jobs, and supporting their families—not foreign policy.

Another similarity between the United States and Israel is the lack of leadership options. Only some 33% of Israelis believe Netanyahu is the best man for the prime minister’s job, and his approval rating is around that same figure. But that puts him far ahead of any other major player on the Israeli scene. The next most popular choice for prime minister, according to the polls, is Isaac Herzog of the Labor Party at around 17%. Netanyahu’s Likud Party also polls significantly higher than any other party, so the overwhelming likelihood is that Netanyahu will win another election.

But the real question is what his coalition would look like. As we’ve seen in the last several Israeli elections, cobbling together a governing coalition is no easy feat. It requires serious compromises that could result in the same prime minister being forced to take on rather different policies depending on the coalition. The right-wing coalition that came to power in 2013 pushed Netanyahu into even more hawkish positions than he already held, both internationally and domestically. What would the next one do?

The current government, led by Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Coalition, consists of the Russian/right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel, Our Home) party headed by Avigdor Lieberman; HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) headed by Naftali Bennett; Yesh Atid, a centrist party led by former television anchor Yair Lapid; and Ha’Tnuah, headed by Tzipi Livni. While all of these parties have clashed with Netanyahu at one time or another, Lapid and Livni are the most at odds with Bibi right now.

Netanyahu would certainly try to form a new coalition without Lapid or Livni. Between Likud and the other two far-right parties currently in the coalition, Netanyahu could reasonably count on around 50 seats in the next Knesset. Sixty-one seats are needed to form a governing coalition. But while Bennett has warmed up to Netanyahu, Lieberman, whose party formed a joint ticket with Netanyahu in the last election, has become a political enemy. So how will Netanyahu cobble together a coalition?

Netanyahu’s Likud and Bennett’s HaBayit Hayehudi are currently polling at about 40 seats between them, perhaps a few more. Another twenty or so would then be needed to form the next government. One candidate is the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. They will want to address their core demands, which are generally based on the economic concerns of their constituency: lower-income Jews of Iberian and Middle Eastern descent. They used to support a theoretical two-state solution, but have recently shifted farther to the right on the issue of the occupation and have always been firm about not dividing Jerusalem. Shas is polling between six and ten seats.

United Torah Judaism is an Ashkenazi coalition party (Jews of European descent, excluding Iberia) that is similar to Shas, but more devoted to maintaining the place of religion in Israel and less interested in foreign policy matters, including the occupation. UTJ will bring 7 or 8 seats.

If, as Netanyahu has suggested, he forms a coalition with the religious parties, it seems very possible that between Likud, and the three religious parties, he could get very close or possibly even exceed the 61-seat threshold. But he’s likely to need one more party, and while Labor, Livni, and Lapid all refuse to rule out being in a Netanyahu-led coalition, they will all face tremendous internal pressure not to do so, and, in any event, Bibi almost certainly doesn’t want them, lest he perpetuate the same unstable coalition he is trying to get out of now.

In all of this, there is a wild card, in the form of a new player in the election game. Popular ex-Likud figure, Moshe Kahlon has formed a party of his own, as yet unnamed, and it figures to be a key player in the next election. Kahlon, who is very well-liked among the Israeli public for having reformed the cellular communications industry, left Likud because he felt it had “lost its way.” He is a classic Likud hawk more in the mold of Menachem Begin than Netanyahu. But his real appeal exists in the fact that like Begin and very much unlike Netanyahu, he tends to emphasize economic equality and social welfare. He would not promote the blatant racism Netanyahu does, and that might help a bit with the current internal strife. He would also want to try to maintain a peace process, even while he holds positions on the occupation and security that are not far away from Bibi’s. Current polls have his new party winning between 9 and 12 seats.

So, what kind of government comes out of all this? Kahlon may, in many ways, hold the key to that question. The most likely coalition would consist of Likud, HaBayit HaYehudi, Shas and Kahlon’s party, with UTJ possibly tagging along or replacing Shas. The price of the latter parties’ agreements would be some change in economic and social policies in Israel. This could amount to a government that does more to assuage popular domestic anger than the current one, but is even more hawkish on the occupation. Kahlon could also turn into a somewhat more powerful version of Livni in the next government. His party would likely hold considerably more seats and he is much more popular with Israelis than Livni ever was.

If Kahlon does better in the election than currently projected, he could also possibly be the one to form the next government. Kahlon would not necessarily have to out-poll Likud to do this. He would merely need to have enough seats and support from other parties to convince Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (who despises Netanyahu and whose appointment to the presidency Bibi tried to block) that he stands a better chance of forming a coalition than Netanyahu does. That’s an unlikely move for him, but not out of the question since Kahlon could, if he wished, form a broad based government that could include Yisrael Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, and Labor, as well as Shas and UTJ. Such a government would be far more likely to renew the peace process, but, especially given the increasing apathy or even militancy with which most Israelis view the occupation, no more likely to actually move it forward.

Considered in that light, there might be reason to hope that an even more extreme right-wing government takes power. Perhaps that would fan the small sparks we are seeing from Europe toward real pressure on Israel. But when it comes right down to it, neither scenario is promising.

Licensed from Inter Press Service


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Netanyahu fires two Israeli ministers as early elections loom”

9 Responses

  1. Does a bear shit in the woods?

    Of course the next Israeli government will be more extreme than this one. And the one after that will be more extreme still.

    Israeli politics is lurching ever more to the right, and it will continue to do so until there is the inevitable military coup by a settler-controlled officer class.

    At which point all bets will be off, and I wouldn’t want to be a Goy anywhere within arms-reach – or sniper-range – of an IDF soldier.

    • “Israeli politics is lurching ever more to the right…..”

      The Nineteenth Knesset was dissolved by 93-0 vote today with elections slated for March 17th, 2015.

      During the past year Isaac Herzog, Labor Party leader, and Tzipi Livni, chair of the centrist Hatenua Party have discussed building a coalition.

      Livni had initiated unofficial negotiations with the Palestinian Authority after U.S.-sponsored negotiations between the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the P.L.O. broke down earlier this year. In the years since she left the Likud Party in 2006, she has been a vocal supporter of a negotiated two-state solution and has been criticized by the far right in Israel.

      Herzog achieved prominence and popularity over his reorganization of Israel’s cell phone industry.

      Polls taken in Israel in April suggested that a Livni/Herzog-led coalition would be voted in if elections were held at that time.

      The best chance for a negotiated peace settlement would be if a coalition led by the Labor and Hatenua parties were formed following the March 17th Knesset elections.

  2. From all appearances, most Israelis seem to be delusionally paranoid. That is, their world view is extremely distorted and full of irrational fear. If one looks at the range of Israeli media, there is no sane discussion about the real world and how Israel should interact with it.

    As a result, it is highly unlikely that any sane leadership is possible in Israel and Israel will continue on the path to their destruction


    – Israel does not have a military advantage and can not continue to use force to get its way. The IDF can and will be humiliated and defeated if Israel keeps trying to use force. Remember that over the last 10000 years ALL armies have eventually suffered humiliating, total defeat – there is zero chance the IDF will be any different.

    – Basic game theory says Israel has ONLY three options going forward (1) DIVIDE the land and water fairly – Now TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE to do without a massive civil war in Israel and the settlers have access to all the weapons the IDF has. (2) SHARE the land equally with every human a full citizen with full rights – This is what will most probably happen over the next few years – Israel will become a secular (non-religious) state with a slight Muslim majority – In other words, no longer Jewish. (3) A fight to the death between the Israelis and the Arabs – As I noted above the Arabs now have the ability to defeat the IDF and will do so if Israel tries to forcibly ethnically cleanse the area west of the Jordan River. Israel can no longer win a major war and once the population sees the IDF losing, over half the Israeli population will simply invoke their secondary citizenship and leave Israel. So if Israel wants to survive, it really has ONLY one long term option – SHARE.

    – Global demographics are against Israel – Most of the world population is under 40 and for them, Israel has been a major pain in the *ss their entire life. They have no emotional tie to Israel and often consider Israel to be a major global problem. This is just going to get much worse for Israel as the boomer population in the US and Europe dies off (currently at a rate of 2000+/day). Outside the US and EU, even the boomer population has neutral to negative feeling toward Israel. So, over the next 10 years as the generations change in the US and Europe, Israel is going to lose most of the support it currently has. Israelis will view this as the world becoming antisemitic when the reality is the guilt over the Holocaust will simply be disappearing and Israel will start to be treated like any other pain in the *ss country.

    – Global power is shifting back to China (For all but 200 years of the last 5000 years, China was a major regional power). As power shifts from the US to China, even if some Americans still support Israel, the US will not have the ability to help very much (and as I noted above, fewer and fewer Americans will even care to waste the power they have, to help Israel). Of course there is a lot of magical thinking in Israel that China will welcome Israel with open arms, which is completely void of any reality. Yes, China will be “friendly” to Israel for a while, but that is only so China can more easily strip-mine Israel for intellectual property. once Israel is a dry husk, China will simple throw it away. Israel has nothing that China can not easily duplicate and improve.. Best estimates are China graduates between 300000 and 500000 engineers per year. that is, every ten years, China graduates more engineers than Israel has in total population. And these engineers are no less intelligent than Israeli engineers.

    So the basic bottom line is unless Israel drastically changes its behavior, it very probably has a very bad future, BUT currently there does not appear to be anyone in Israel that understands this.

    As a result, Israel will continue on the path it is on, getting more and more paranoid and violent, until it finally loses everything.

    Of course, If israelis ever did understand how bad their behavior is and negotiated in good faith, after giving up lots of land, water, cash (for compensation) and apologies for their behavior for the last 100 years, they would find that working with the other nations of the ME, they could create a very nice iconic block that would be a viable trading partner with the rest of the world.

    I am not holding my breath.

    • In other words, the Israeli Jews and white Americans are becoming more and more alike – and completely different than everyone else. Likely to share the same ugly fate.

  3. If elections were held today, Yesh Atid would likely lose half of their twenty seats. MK Yair Lapid, its leader, has seen his popularity plummet since his election under his new party Yesh Atid. MK Lapid, son of former Likud deputy prime minister Yossi Lapid, was viewed as a novice on foreign policy matters and his positions against the privileges enjoyed by the Haredi had infuriated those ultraorthodox Israelis.

    This makes me believe that the traditionally-powerful ultraorthodox parties will rejoin the governing coalition to be formed after the expected March of 2015 Knesset elections.

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