Media Analysis

The only hope for Israel politically is… Palestinians

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It looks like the center is holding in Israel. Netanyahu’s Likud party is negotiating with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White for a national unity government that would join the two rivals in a power sharing arrangement.

The fascination of the election is the larger trends: Israel is more rightwing than ever, though the religious settler bloc has lost power to secular rightists. And by taking 13 seats and finishing third, the Palestinian Joint List has forced the Jewish parties to contend with Palestinians as a political force.

That last point is the one I keep harping on. We have seen unprecedented signs of Palestinian power in Israel. The president met with the Joint List. Benny Gantz called the Joint List. Its leader Ayman Odeh endorsed Blue and White so as to end the era of Netanyahu. The Joint List just might lead the opposition.

And yet, in the end, the Palestinians don’t count. They will almost certainly not be part of a coalition, even part of a non-governmental bloc that would vote to keep a centrist party in power. Jewish parties will combine in any number of ways to make a winning coalition, with even the far right joining the center-left, but no Palestinians are wanted. They are the “enemies,” says kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman.

And: Palestinians are THE most liberal faction of Israeli society.

That idea ought to provide a wakeup call to American liberal Zionists. Look at Israeli politics. The one party that is for “true equality” and dignity for all people is a Palestinian party. Dylan Williams of J Street makes the point:

The head of the slate of parties representing Israel’s Palestinian citizens, @AyOdeh, sets out a vision for Israel (and Palestine) matching the views of the vast majority of US Jews, while Netanyahu doubles down on his vision for an Israel defined by racism and endless occupation

Odeh laid out his liberal opposition to Jewish Jim Crow in a New York Times op-ed announcing his support for Gantz.

We call for repealing the nation-state law that declared me, my family and one-fifth of the population to be second-class citizens….

Israeli governments have made this rejection clear time and again, from the years of military rule imposed on Arabs in Israel from the founding of the state until 1966, to the longstanding attempts to suppress Palestinian culture and the continuing decision to occupy the lands and lives of our sisters and brothers in the West Bank and Gaza…

By choosing to recommend Mr. Gantz, we have proven that cooperation between people, Arab and Jewish, is the only principled political strategy that will lead to a better future for us all.

The irrelevance of the Palestinian parties in the coalition negotiations seems undeniable proof of the tragedy of Zionism. Palestinians are the one group in Israeli society that are not adherents of Zionism, and they are the most truly liberal. Even as Zionism shapes its adherents, Israeli Jews, into racists.

Last April, Dahlia Scheindlin polled Israeli citizens and showed just what Odeh is now demonstrating. Palestinians in Israel are surprisingly open-minded and regard Jews as potential partners. But Israeli Jews look on Palestinians with contempt. Don’t want them to have any political power!

[T]he poll also showed an uncompromising opposition among Jewish Israelis to their Arab compatriots acquiring certain forms of political power…Asked whether they would consider voting for an Arab political party if that party represented their views, 88 percent of the Jewish respondents said no. Only four percent said they would consider it..

Among Arabs, the picture is vastly different. Nearly half of the Arab respondents (47 percent) said they would consider voting for a Jewish party. A minority of only 19 percent stated they would not consider voting for a Jewish political party. ..

Intolerance on the part of Jewish Israelis, from Scheindlin poll. April 2019.

It’s the same story when you ask Israeli Jews and Palestinians about a Palestinian party joining the government. Scheindlin:

The most conspicuous example of Jewish Israelis’ lack of desire to advance equality on a political level, however, is their response to the idea of an Arab party joining Israel’s governing coalition. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) said that such a scenario is unacceptable..

The results among Arabs couldn’t be more different. Despite some calls to boycott the Israeli political system, 87 percent of Arab citizens support the prospect of their parties joining the country’s governing coalition.

Palestinians are far more liberal than their Jewish fellow citizens in Israel.

Well you can hardly blame the Israeli Jews now. They are on top. What incentive do they have to give up privilege?

Now reflect that Avigdor Lieberman is being cast as a “liberal” in this election and has many times said racist and repugnant things about Palestinians. And that Blue and White “almost reflexively rejected” the Joint List’s earlier offer to join a centrist government. Though Blue and White will entertain coalition-arrangements with rightwing Jews.

No Israeli leader is interested in Palestinian sovereignty, Daniel Levy writes at the American Prospect:

Both Likud and Blue and White (along with Lieberman) represent what has become the new center of gravity of Israeli politics, a politics that is significantly to the right. Neither is willing to countenance a sovereign and territorially viable Palestinian state and an end to occupation; neither is willing to take on and remove Jewish settlements in the occupied territories; neither has been supportive of U.S. negotiations with Iran or of the nuclear deal; neither is committed to taking on the deeply embedded structural discrimination against Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.

So that is Israel, a rightwing society formed by a religious nationalist ideology, Zionism. As Daniel Gordis opines in the New York Times, Palestinians need to accept that Israel is the Jewish state. And he acknowledges, Israel’s Jewish supremacist values could not be more different from American Jews’ values.

Palestinians political parties come much closer to liberal American values. The burden on American Jews is what we have said it is on many earlier occasions: Abandon Zionism, it’s a dead horse.

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Ayman Odeh has turned a page in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. His list may not now become part of the Israeli government but he has enabled Americans, American Jews, and American politicians to appreciate that it is Zionism standing in the way of positive neighborly relations for the future. Odeh has laid the foundation, the narrative, upon which peace can build. He enabled Palestinians and Judaism to stand up by writing, “We will continue our work… Read more »

For the record: “Netanyahu on Steroids: What a Gantz-led Israeli Government Means for Palestinians” by Ramzy Baroud, Informed Comment, Sept. 24/19 (Middle East Monitor) – “Experience has taught Palestinians not to pay heed to Israeli elections. But to every rule there is an exception. “Although it is still true that no Israeli Zionist leader has ever been kind to the Palestinian people, the dynamics of the latest Israeli elections on September 17 are likely… Read more »

This morning I am seeing articles like: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been asked to form the country’s next government…”

Looks like Blue and White and Likud found they occupied common ground.

Many of the Jews living in Israel deserve better than, “Abandon Zionism, it’s a dead horse.” I don’t imagine that Phil Weiss or the denizens of the comment section really care to hear that, but… those Jews in Israel who voted gantz and further left deserve an attentive ear from those who were Zionists until this point in time. I do not consider myself a Zionists compared to once upon a time. Once upon a… Read more »