How the settler vote is driving Israeli politics more and more rightward

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Yousef Munayyer has done a very shrewd analysis of the settler vote in Israeli elections to demonstrate that while the Israeli public is largely divided between right and center, the settler vote is not; it is overwhelmingly rightwing. And it a large enough bloc, at about 10 percent of the vote, that politicians’ desire to win the bloc is driving the entire polity to the right– destroying the two-state solution.

“The settlers don’t necessarily have enough influence to dominate a government alone yet (though they are trending in that direction),” Munayyer says, “but effectively exercise a veto over any coalition that won’t further their interests.”

Munayyer points out that the “centrist” Kadima party, which has supported a two-state solution, took the largest percent of the overall Israeli vote, but a very small percentage of the settler vote; and it’s been left out in the cold.

You could see Munayyer’s observation alive before your eyes at the Saban Forum last weekend, where rightwing settler-politician Avigdor Lieberman didn’t even pay lip service to a Palestinian state, even as Israel’s American supporters Martin Indyk and Haim Saban fulminated at Lieberman about what this was doing to Israel.

Munayyer’s analysis:

To be clear, the 650,000 Israelis living beyond the green line make up less than 10% of the Israeli voting population. That being said, in a parliamentary system with multiple parties (34 ran in 2009) a significant edge among even this size segment of a population can tip the scales. Especially when there was near-parity between the Likud (the traditional right-wing powerhouse) and Kadima (what is today referred to in Israel as “centrist” opposition) in the non-settlement vote. The definition of  ”Centrist” in Israel today is significantly detached from the political/ideological spectrum and seems to mean “biggest party not called Likud”. Thus, while the settler population is a small segment of the voting population overall, it is significant enough to change political trends and the stances of parties who must evolve to maintain political viable in an increasingly right-leaning state.

… [A]lmost every party in the government that was formed took a larger percentage of the settler vote than the non-settler vote. It should come as no surprise then that the Israeli Prime Minister and head of this coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared, “There is no government that supports, or will support, settlement more than my government.”

Munayyer’s analysis is a good reminder of the apartheid policy of Israeli suffrage:  Jews who live on the West Bank can vote in Israeli elections, their Palestinian neighbors can’t. And the Jews who live there are rightwingers who are driving state policy; i.e., they’re beneficiaries of apartheid who are going to vote in favor of apartheid. The only way to reverse this trend, I believe, is to give everyone the vote; that way Jewish moderates and Palestinian moderates can find one another and form a major party and begin to counter the right wing.

Munayyer suggests the same thing:

Not only did Israeli settlements in the West Bank create a geographic obstacle to a viable, contiguous Palestinian state, they also created a political obstacle as well. Both at this point have rendered the two-state outcome dead; given Israeli political dynamics, the Israeli government is not going to be willing to equally power-share in a one-state outcome until they face serious costs. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, Israel will continue to be isolated in a world that rejects this system but ultimately the system of Apartheid will collapse. But the incentives Israeli political leaders continue to face domestically have them flying full-speed ahead toward this collapse.

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