No, Israeli Democracy Is Not ‘Fine’

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz at their respective campaign headquarters on Election Day (Photo: AFP)
Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz at their respective campaign headquarters on Election Day. (photo: AFP)
Creating a coalition with Palestinians is the long term solution to true democracy.

By Peter Beinart | Forward | Sept 26, 2019

The deeper malady is that Palestinians — even Palestinians who live inside the green line and can thus vote in Israeli elections — aren’t considered equal citizens.

Last week, Bret Stephens penned a New York Times column entitled, “Israel’s democracy is doing just fine.” With their “rebuke” of Benjamin Netanyahu at the polls, Stephens declared, “Israelis showed that demagogy doesn’t work.”

This week, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the opportunity to form Israel’s next government. Netanyahu could fail to do so, in which case his center-right rival, Benny Gantz, would likely get the chance. But there’s a real possibility that Netanyahu — a man so racist that Facebook shut down one of his chatbots for violating its hate speech rules this month, and so authoritarian that the president of Israel’s supreme court this spring compared his attacks on judicial independence to the Nazi era — will remain Israel’s leader well into the future.

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Netanyahu or Gantz: The tragic dilemma facing Israel’s Palestinian citizens

Members of the Joint List party sit next to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as he began cross-party talks on 22 September over who should form a new government. (photo: Reuters)
The Joint List’s recommendation of Gantz as prime minister dramatically alters the traditional political stance of Arabs in Israel

By Orly Noy  | Middle East Eye | Sept 24, 2019

The degree of chaos in the Israeli political landscape today is indicated by the status of Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, who has proposed among other things the “transfer” of Arab citizens out of Israel entirely.

Many people were hoping that the mid-September election in Israel would resolve the political mess that followed the previous election in April when neither of the two leading candidates for prime minister – Benny Gantz of the Blue and White alliance and Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud – garnered enough votes to form a government.

But that hope was quickly dashed within a few days when the votes were counted. The political blocs headed by both candidates fell short of securing the 61 seats required for a parliamentary majority.

Continue reading “Netanyahu or Gantz: The tragic dilemma facing Israel’s Palestinian citizens”

Preparing for 2020: Advocating for justice for Palestine and beyond

Gaza panel at Preparing for 2020 conference. (photo: AFSC / Matthew Paul D’Agostino)

Strategizing for solidarity and effectiveness within the universal human rights/justice movements.

By Alice Rothchild | American Friends Service Committee | Sept 13, 2019

We need a collective liberation, which also means, by the way, no POOPS (Progressive Only On Palestine).

The American Friends Service Committee conference in DC, September 7-8, Preparing for 2020: Advocating for Rights, Justice, and Freedom, was an excellent antidote to the stormy and frightening times in which we live. It is a measure of our failure to be more outraged than we already are that Netanyahu’s pledge to annex much of the West Bank to Israel (as if there was not already one apartheid state) barely caused a flutter of protest. Between Trump and Netanyahu we are all suffering from shock fatigue and a good dose of gloom about the future of the planet. I lie awake at night wondering, will it be forest fires, drought, floods, and wars over water, or maybe an old fashioned nuclear war that will finish us off. For folks with children and grandchildren, this is not a theoretical concern.

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No matter how many Palestinians vote in Israeli elections, we still can’t win

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List coalition of Palestinian parties, votes in Haifa, Israel, in Tuesday’s election. His group will be the third-largest bloc in the next Knesset. (photo: Ariel Schalit / AP)
Whether Netanyahu or Gantz forms the next government, the right-wing policies will remain the same.

By Henriette Chacar | The Washington Post | Sep 20, 2019

By giving only a certain class of Palestinians the right to vote, Israel maintains a veneer of democracy, even though more than 75 percent of Palestinians who live under varying degrees of its rule are disenfranchised.

As polling in Israel came to a close Tuesday night, my family turned on the news to watch the results trickle in. Flashes of blue and white fired from the screen onto my brother’s face, revealing a sense of relief and confusion. Despite — or perhaps because of — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rampant racist rhetoric in recent weeks, about 60 percent of eligible Palestinian voters participated in the elections, up by 10 percentage points over turnout in the April elections, which left no party able to form a government. The Joint List, the slate uniting non-Zionist Palestinian and Jewish candidates, will be the third-largest party in the Knesset, with 13 seats.

“That’s great, no?” my brother asked.

Well, it’s complicated.

Continue reading “No matter how many Palestinians vote in Israeli elections, we still can’t win”

Arab parties throw support behind Gantz

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin consults with Likud party members in Jerusalem on Sunday, Sep 22, 2019. (photo: Menahem Kahana / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)
It is unclear how Rivlin will get the sides to cooperate, after their campaigns promised not to be part of a government that included certain candidates or certain parties.

By Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post| Sep 22, 2019

‘We will recommend Benny Gantz as prime minister. We want to return to be legitimate political actors and bring an end to the Netanyahu government.’
— Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List [of Arab Israeli parties]

In a historic move, an alliance of Arab Israeli parties recommended a prime ministerial candidate to President Reuven Rivlin for the first time in almost three decades, saying in consultations Sunday that it would support a bid by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz to replace Benjamin Netanyahu.

The process of selecting Israel’s next prime minister has entered its second stage, with eyes firmly on the country’s largely ceremonial president as he looks for a way out of a deadlocked election result to avert a third vote.

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Israeli elections: Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and his wife wave to supporters in Tel Aviv on Sep 18. (photo: AFP)
Regardless of what new coalition government emerges, Israel has broken no new ground on resolving its largest problem.

By Richard Silverstein | Middle East Eye | Sep 18, 2019

But Israel is not a secular democracy. It is rather an ethnocracy, in which the rights of Palestinian citizens are subordinated to those of Jews. No ruling Israeli coalition has ever included Palestinian parties.

Israel’s second election in the past five months has led to yet another political stalemate. As occurred in April, the two main political parties, the far-right Likud and center-right Blue and White, fought to a virtual tie.

The political kingmaker today, as he was in April, is Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu. In the last election, he refused to offer his party’s seats to a Likud-led coalition headed by his once-patron and now arch-rival, Benjamin Netanyahu. This is what led to the current round of voting.

Though it is hard to predict what Lieberman will do, he is holding out for a secular “unity government” consisting of Likud and Blue and White. His main aims are to keep the Orthodox parties out of the ruling coalition and pass a military draft law to compel currently-exempt Orthodox youth to join the army.

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Israel after Netanyahu?

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu arrives to deliver a statement during a news conference in Jerusalem September 18, 2019 [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu arrives to deliver a statement during a news conference in Jerusalem September 18, 2019.  [photo: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters]
Six trends underlined by the Knesset elections will determine the future of Israel.

By Marwan Bishara | Al Jazeera |  Sept 19, 2019

…the Israeli vote confirms some larger trends that will shape the future of Israel/Palestine more than any one particular leader.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spell may have finally worn out. He tried every trick in the book to win Tuesday’s Knesset elections but failed to secure enough seats to form a government.

For months, the incumbent premier lied to his constituency, ridiculed his competitors, flouted electoral rules, demonised the Palestinian minority in Israel, bombed several neighbouring countries, announced new illegal settlements, vowed to annex a third of the occupied West Bank, and trotted around like a superhero with US and Russian leaders.

All to no avail.

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Netanyahu is in trouble, and other takeaways from the Israeli election

Ponomarev / The New York Times)
Israeli voters went to the polls on Tuesday for the second time in five months. The results aren’t certain, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to gain the support he had hoped for, and Israeli Arabs are poised to become the third largest party in the Knesset.

By Megan Specia | The New York Times| Sep 18, 2019

•  Netanyahu’s reign appears to be fading. He had hoped to achieve a stronger mandate this time around, with the support of smaller parties on the religious right, but he seems to have made no gains and the support of those groups seems unlikely to be enough to form a governing coalition.
•  What happens now? Benny Ganz, whose broader bloc of center-left parties may give him the support he needs, may be able to form a coalition provided he can count on the backing of Mr. Liberman.
•  What will Mr. Liberman do? The secular ultranationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, which is expected to win nine seats in the Knesset, may have the potential to make or break a coalition. Its leader, Avigdor Liberman, appears to hold the power to be a kingmaker.
•  Arab voters came out in force. The Joint List of Arab parties — a coalition of the four largest Arab-majority parties — has regained the influence it lost in April and looks set to be the third-largest party in the Knesset, according to early results.

A day after Israel’s general election — the second in five months — there is still uncertainty about the final outcome, but it appears the long reign of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be coming to an end.

As expected, neither Mr. Netanyahu nor his main rival, the former army chief Benny Gantz, a centrist, won enough votes to claim an outright majority in the Israeli Parliament. Crucially, neither seems to have a straightforward path to forming a governing coalition with at least 61 of the 120 lawmakers in Parliament.

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Who won the Israeli election? American Jews by the Forward
(photo: Getty Images)
The progressive American Jewish community may feel relieved if Netanyahu loses, but solutions to Palestinian human rights may be still hard to find.

By Abe Silberstein | The Forward | Sept 18, 2019

If this is indeed the end of the Netanyahu era, the resilience of progressive American Jews will be tested in the coming months and years.

Tuesday was election day in Israel. But no winner has yet been declared. As of this writing, it appears that the parties committed to supporting Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister will not win a majority in Knesset. At the same time, the opposition parties ostensibly committed to ousting him will also fall short of a majority.

It’s too early to predict exactly how this stalemate will end. But for the liberal majority of American Jews anxiously watching the election results, uncertainty was one of the better possible outcomes. Every Israeli election since 2009 ended with a more or less convincing victory for Netanyahu, victories which, in both 2015 and April 2019 immediately followed incendiary promises to upend the possibility of a two-state solution. For the American Jewish community, which is by and large committed to a just end to the conflict via two states for two peoples, this was a devastating set of affairs.

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How conservative American money helped the religious right take over Israel

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walking past a Likud party election campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in Jerusalem, Sep 11, 2019. (photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
The religious right is successfully dominating Israel’s public discourse — with the help of funding and tactics used in the US.

By Rami Hod and Yonatan Levi | Haaretz | Sep 17, 2019

Perhaps what is most remarkable about Israeli politics’ swerve to the right is that it has no parallel, or precedent, in public sentiment. The vast majority of Israelis still support the two-state solution, progressive economic policies and freedom of religion.

Regardless of the election results, the Israeli religious right is on the rise. The public face of its success may belong to Benjamin Netanyahu — a patently secular politician, whose weakness for luxurious nonkosher restaurants is a well-known fact in Israeli politics — but the long-term consequences of its ascent will outlive the career of any specific leader.

A closer look at the political camp Netanyahu has been heading for over a decade — from its key institutions, to its flagship legislation, to its grassroots organizations — reveals that most of the right’s ideas and energies don’t stem from the prime minister’s palatial villa in seaside Caesarea, but rather from a new political elite based in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank. It also indicates just how radically the Israeli right has changed in the past few years.

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