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.

This plan is vehemently opposed by the ultra-Orthodox, who maintain that studying the Torah is the only suitable vocation for men. They view joining the army as a grave desecration of their divine obligations. In the past, they have closed down major highways and rioted during protests against this law.

There is another path to a center-right coalition led by Blue and White that would exclude Likud. The Palestinian Joint List has offered, for the first time in Israeli history, to join such a government.

Given that it is the third-largest party in the Knesset, increasing its representation in this election to 13 seats [of 120 total], in any other democratic legislature it would be a natural constituent for such a governing coalition.

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