Israeli election revealed ‘a total lack of political mobilization against’ the occupation

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Days ago we published Alex Kane’s analysis that the occupation won in the Israeli election. That view now has support from several other poll-watchers. Yesterday I pointed out David Remnick’s view that Israel did not move to the left with this election, and that the Israeli indifference to Palestinian suffering is tragic. Yousef Munayyer sounds the same themes in a grim post analyzing the results and finding that “Israel runs a brutal military occupation over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians and has done so for decades, but the vast majority of Israelis are detached from this reality. The occupation has become relatively cost-free for Israelis.”

Munayyer focuses on the great middle of Israeli Jewish voters, to whom Yair Lapid appealed:

How is the non-settler, non-Arab Israeli vote split? Rather than perpetuate these misnomers of right and left which are less appropriate for this type of system (I explain more of this here), I’d rather look at it as the divide between Netanyahu’s friends, or natural allies, and his “frenemies” (those who have been in opposition but could still join his coalition).

Well Munayyer says that vote splits 56-44 for Netanyahu’s friends. I.e., the centrist mass of Jewish voters is right-leaning. Indeed, as I discovered when I interviewed Jerusalemites in November. Munayyer says the long-term trend is for Israeli Jewish society to get more rightwing:

The Zionist parties in opposition to Netanyahu consistently exclude Arabs from possible coalitions. But a steady and growing Arab voting block means the space for the Zionist non-Netanyahu vote continues to shrink. Add to this the fact that the settler vote, which is naturally allied with Netanyahu and again not reflected in this chart, is also steady and growing, significantly. 

So this means that, yes, structurally Israeli politics is set on a high-speed course toward the right. There really isn’t any other realistic option. There is only one way this really changes. Something revolutionary needs to occur among non-Arab, non-settler Israeli voters to shake up this dynamic. In a sense this already has, and the popular mobilization that brought Israelis into the streets in 2011 to protest the high price of cottage cheese, among other things, was reflected in the relative success of parties like Yesh Atid and Labor. 
But the total absence of political mobilization against Netanyahu’s colonial policies toward the Palestinians was also reflected. Parties like Labor and Yesh Atid, which are the so-called “center-left,” are largely mute when it comes to challenging the occupation. If anything, Lapid’s support for perpetual Israeli control of settlements like Ariel and Maale Addumim, plus his insistence on the perpetual occupation of of Jerusalem, shows that the “center” itself has moved right on issues related to occupation and Palestinians.

Does the opposition have any potential to push for an end to the occupation? Put simply, no. That opposition will be led by Labor, whose showing in this election was extremely disappointing. They won only two seats more than they did in 2009, despite the demise of Kadima, which should have meant lots of voters for them to pick up. But even if they had done better, it would have been discouraging. Labor leader Shelly Yachimovitch avoided the occupation like the plague in her campaign. Indeed, she did almost nothing to challenge Bibi [Netanyahu] on defense in any way. If Livni does not join the government, she will be the loudest voice in the opposition calling for negotiations, but, as we saw during her time as Foreign Minister from Kadima, her willingness to actually conclude a deal does not match her rhetoric, which itself is the product of the failed Oslo process to which she remains wed…

But anyone who believes this government is going to do anything more to end the occupation is simply dreaming. What it does have the ability to do is cast more of an illusion than its predecessor. With all the new settlement units that were announced just in the past year, this government can actually accelerate settlement growth significantly without announcing new plans. In other words, they can expand quietly, without the controversy the last government constantly courted. This government can also say nicer things to the Palestinians, even find a way to sit down with them if they can do the dance well enough, without ever having to make any real progress. That’s what this election left us. The picture is not pretty.

For the counter-view, here is the latest from Jeremy Ben-Ami at J Street, “Window of Opportunity” in which he sees Obama throwing himself into the peace process:

We should take heart that the centrist heart of Israeli politics is alive and well, and the seemingly inexorable rise of the ultra-right has been halted. There remains a solid majority in Israel for a two-state solution. Netanyahu’s do-nothing policies were rejected by both the right and the left. Given the circumstances, this result is almost the best we could have hoped for and far better than expected.

An ultra-right wing government stacked with backers of the settlement movement would have made it very difficult to make progress toward a two-state solution. A broader, center-right coalition including some prominent supporters of a peace deal opens a window of opportunity for President Obama to launch a new initiative to solve the conflict with the Palestinians. The State of the Union Address on February 12 presents an early opportunity to make his intentions clear.

As soon as the new coalition is in place, Secretary of State Kerry should visit the Middle East to lay the groundwork for renewed diplomacy, as he intimated he might in his confirmation hearing yesterday.

We will then urge the President to put forward his own blueprint and timetable for an agreement and to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah later this year to kick-start the process.

I guess we’ll know pretty soon how likely is this scenario, of American action.

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