As Netanyahu faces corruption charges and Arabs become a predictable scapegoat, the political soap opera in Israel is just getting started, writes Miko Peled.
The Israeli election process, like a bad soap opera, has been going on for many months now with no end in sight, and precisely like a poorly made soap opera, the squabbling, blaming, threatening, scare tactics and mudslinging have lead to nothing.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, assumed to be the “Boss” of Israeli politics, seems to have lost his touch. In two consecutive elections, he was unable to win a majority or form a coalition government.
The rise of a united opposition to run against him led by former IDF generals – who by the way at one point or another served him – is part of the reason for his failure. Additionally, although he pandered to them and made them promises, he was unable to convince the constituency of settler gangs to support him exclusively, rather than to vote for their own parties, and this cost him valuable votes. These ultra-right-wing parties that can only be described as a combination of religious fanaticism and neo-fascism include people like Transportation Minister Bezalel Smutrich, Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz and the newly appointed Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennet.
The most repeated mantra in Israeli politics today is, “no one wants elections.” In a press conference at the President’s residence, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein repeated this. In an emergency gathering of the “Right Block,” Netanyahu declared: “elections are bad!” Yet, still, as hard as they may try, none of these politicians sound convincing. Ignoring the famous Albert Einstein quote, or perhaps proving it right, that repeating the same actions and expecting different results is a sign of madness, it is clear that the main characters in this soap opera, namely, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, are hoping for another election cycle.
Their hope, delusional as it may be, is that the next round of elections will get them enough votes to become the next prime minister. While the cost of elections is enormous, the money does not come out of their pockets. Consistent with characters of bad soap operas, having large egos and a self-centered outlook, they believe they can make it if they just tweak their campaign. Maybe if they make another promise, get yet another statement by Donald Trump, or use a different slogan, they might make the cut. This, despite the fact that these tricks clearly failed them in the previous two elections.
The Israeli Electorate
The political division that is demonstrated by the result of the last two elections represents two main parts within Israeli society. The division has to do less with the issues than it does cosmetics. The first is who will sit at the head of the table, the cabinet table. While the two main parties, and most of the small ones, are quite happy to sit together in a coalition government, they want their guy to be at the head of the table.
The second touches somewhat on the issues but is in essence also cosmetic: Likud politicians and voters are proud of who they are and the ideology they espouse: violent, racist, and a settler-colonial ideology that flaunts its power and racism. It can be summed up as f*&% the Arabs, this is our land and that’s that.
The other part of the Israeli electorate, those who vote for Blue and White and parties that are considered “Liberal Zionist,” or “Zionist Left,” espouse the same ideology, but prefer to do it in the closet. It was the Zionist left that initiated the ethnic cleansing and destruction of Palestine in 1948. It was the same Zionist left that completed the conquest of Palestine in 1967 and built in the newly conquered lands for Jews only, and it is the Zionist left that brought about the disaster of the Oslo Agreements and contracted the Palestinian Authority to do its dirty work. However, it is all done under an enormous fig leaf called “Peace.” All they really ever wanted was peace.
So about half of the Israeli electorate is brutal and brutally honest and the other is brutal but shy about it.
In an emergency gathering of the “right,” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the “Arab” political parties in the Knesset are supporters of terrorism. He said that a government that has to rely on their support will be an “existential threat” to the state of Israel. He called it a “Pigu’a Leumi” a terror attack of national proportions.
Responses were quick to appear from figures across the political spectrum, including President Rivlin. Netanyahu was reprimanded for labeling all of the “Arabs” of Israel as terrorists, even though he made it clear he was not referring to all of the “Arabs” because, according to him, “there are loyal, Zionist Arabs” out there too.
Another response came from the mayor of the Palestinian-Druze town of Daliyat El-Karmel, Rafik Halabi. It is a town within the 1948 boundaries so its residents are considered citizens of the state of Israel. Halabi himself was, for many years, a correspondent on Israeli television covering “Arab Issues.” In response to Netanyahu’s remarks, he tweeted:
Does the PM know how many Muslim Arabs serve in the IDF. Does he know how many Israeli Arabs serve in the Mossad, the Shabak (Israel’s secret police, MP), and other arms of the security forces…”
He ended the tweet with: “We are all Israelis.”
If Halabi’s tweet was an indication of anything, it is that collaborating with an oppressor does not pay off. His entire statement is an indictment of those among the Palestinian communities of 1948 who chose, for one reason or another, to work for the “security” regime of their occupier and colonizer, Israel.
The members of this community that decide to engage in this work get no great benefit for working against their own people. In fact, they are treated with the same contempt as are all other Palestinians, and if any evidence is needed for that, one only needs to look at the newest addition to Israel’s Basic Laws, The Nation State Law. More recently, the comments made by Netanyahu regarding their elected representatives is another good indication. Furthermore, the stain of being a collaborator will surely remain on their families for a long time to come.
This community, which today numbers close to two million people, was able to remain within the newly established state of Israel after the ethnic cleansing of 1948. The dubious title of “Israeli Arab” was imposed along with quasi, second class citizenship in an apartheid state that was forced upon them. A serious debate is, and always has, taken place by Palestinian citizens of Israel as to how to deal with the state, whether or not to participate in elections, and so forth. In the Knesset today, the Palestinian bloc, what is known as the Joint Arab List, makes up the third-largest bloc in the chamber, yet not a single party is willing to sit with them or even rely on their support in creating a coalition government.
As these words are being typed, Prime Minister Netanyahu is being indicted on charges of corruption and breach of trust. There is still a very wide loophole, wide enough that he can jump through it and which will save him for at least another year. The Knesset committee that deals with members’ immunity is not in session right now and so cannot deal with the issue of his immunity.
It would be hard to imagine that an indictment will go forward without giving the prime minister, who is also a sitting member of Knesset, the opportunity to be heard on an issue of such vital importance. It is likely that Netanyahu will clear this loophole delaying the process until after a future election, which is likely to take place in the spring of 2020. This will ensure that the soap opera will continue for at least one more season.
Feature photo | Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gather outside his residence in Jerusalem, Nov. 21, 2019. Israel’s attorney general charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals. Ariel Schalit | AP
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.