Netanyahu casts his ballot at a Jerusalem polling station. (Photo: Getty Images)
Several of the latest polls on Tuesday’s Israeli elections apparently show a modest up-tick in support for what’s known as the “center-left” – Labor plus two new parties, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid – and hence a slightly narrower majority than previously predicted for the far-right bloc led by Netanyahu. Some observers are even speculating that the next government may not be so “extreme” after all.
In a column headlined “Bibi can relax – the ‘center-left’ is really on the right” at +972, former Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner explains what such an outcome would and wouldn’t mean. Amid the mind-numbing flood of coverage this election has elicited (NPR seems to have a new story about it every few hours), Derfner cuts to the heart of the situation:
This will be the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, because what passes for the “center-left” is actually the right. There are two overriding questions in this country, two issues that define left and right: occupation and war. Occupation and war are the status quo, and there’s no center about it: You’re either trying to end it, which puts you on the left, or you’re not, which puts you on the right.
As far as I’m concerned, today’s polls continue to show a right-wing bloc of just over 100 Knesset seats and a left-wing bloc, including Meretz and the Arab parties, of 17 or 18.
For anyone who considers the status quo untenable, the reason to vote for Meretz, Hadash, Balad, United Arab List-Ta’al or Da’am (a truly integrated party that won’t make it into the Knesset but which definitely belongs there), is not because there’s a chance to stop the country from sliding further towards hell next week; that’s going to happen. The reason, instead, to vote for one of the above-mentioned parties is because this country poses an acute, rising danger to itself and others around it, and it requires a fighting, principled opposition to keep it alive, to let the Palestinians and the rest of the world know that there’s something here to work with, something to build on in the future, because authoritarian Israel will not change the status quo on its own; it will have to be forced into it by the Palestinians and the rest of the world. Tuesday’s election will confirm this, and so will the next government.
Considering that Meretz supported Israel’s 2006 assault on Lebanon and “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza in 2008-9, I’m not sure how Derfner justifies including that party in the genuine opposition. Perhaps he just couldn’t face the prospect of Palestinians and the rest of the world looking for “something here to work with, something to build on in the future” and finding no Jewish party at all.