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Israel is having its third election in a year because governments exclude Palestinian lawmakers

Media Analysis

The latest news from Israeli politics is that the leftwing Meretz Party is joining forces with the Labor Party in order to try to stay above the threshold of oblivion in the next election (3.25 percent) and the list of parliamentary candidates they’ve announced excludes Palestinians. The Palestinian member of Knesset Issawi Frej had fought for Meretz’s survival in the last two elections by campaigning in Palestinian areas. Now Frej is #11 on the merged list of the two parties. Experts say there’s no way he will get back into the Parliament.

The headlines in the liberal press are: “Israel’s Meretz party giving up on Arabs” and “Jewish-Arab partnership unwanted, activists charge.”

You don’t see such headlines in the American press. The discrimination against Palestinian citizens in “the only democracy in the Middle East” just doesn’t count as a story here.

So this is a good time to remind readers that the main reason Israeli politics are stalemated and the country is going to its third election inside a year is that Palestinians don’t really count in election totals. The two largest Jewish political parties are each stuck at 50-odd seats out of 120 in the parliament, but the more liberal one can’t forge a deal with the third largest party, the Joint List of Palestinian parties, because Israeli Jews would not accept it.

In any other country, everyone would be wooing the third largest party. In Israel it’s the opposite. Everyone shuns the third party and is wooing Avigdor Lieberman– the “Kingmaker” — though he came in a distant fourth to the Palestinian parties, because he’s Jewish.

And Lieberman calls the Arab parties’ leader a “terrorist” and refuses to meet with any Palestinian politician and refuses to sit in a coalition with Palestinians. Imagine an American politician expressing such racism, and still being in demand!! And of course Netanyahu is just as bad, warning that Arabs “want to annihilate” Jews. In Israeli politics, that’s ho-hum.

The last election cycle saw an unprecedented move by the Palestinian Joint List, offering to support Blue and White’s Benny Gantz in a coalition so as to end the Netanyahu era. The offer was snubbed. Negotiations between Blue and White and the Joint List were insulting, the Palestinian leader Ayman Odeh told Haaretz:

“‘I think Kahol Lavan [Blue and White] wanted to treat us like a mistress. They wanted to use us for two or three months just to throw Bibi out and then form a unity government. [Kahol Lavan Member of Knesset] Ofer Shelah sat with us secretly and asked us not to tell anyone. I told him that first we’ll finish the recommendations, then we’ll reveal the negotiations. And they, like a man who doesn’t want anyone to know he’s having an affair, were very angry. I did it intentionally, to show everyone that we were talking and the sky didn’t fall. We sat, took pictures and talked together.’”

And by the way, when it was thought Netanyahu and Gantz might forge a “unity” deal, thus making the Joint List the official opposition, as the largest party not in the coalition– the big question was, How can we share intelligence data with Palestinians!?

Advocates for Israel will argue that the Palestinians don’t want to be in the government– it’s on the Palestinians. OK, but then you must ask why? Palestinians don’t want to be part of government so long as Israel calls itself the “nation-state of the Jewish people” and occupies Palestine and doesn’t give those people any rights at all.

“If I sit in a government that’s occupying the Palestinian people, if children in Gaza are harmed, I won’t be able to enter the restaurant where we’re sitting now,” Ayman Odeh told Haaretz. “If there’s a serious peace process and there are three or four social issues the government will commit to address, it will be possible to think about a bloc in a serious way.”

In sum, Israeli government politics are all Jewish, and the country’s claim to be a democracy that affords equal rights to all citizens is weak.

And though the spate of stories about the next Israeli election has already begun in the U.S., the fact that anti-Palestinian racism is causing this election won’t be covered in the American press. More than 20 percent of Israel’s population within the 1967 borders are not Jewish, and they’re second-class citizens, but they are invisible to the US mainstream media. Only the alternative media, such as Juan Cole, tells this story. “Israel’s Racism Cripples its Democracy as it Heads for 3rd Election under Indicted Caretaker PM Netanyahu.”

We are still waiting for the New York Times to profile Ayman Odeh, the charismatic leader of the Joint List. Though he continues to be an outsize figure in Israeli media.

Thanks to Scott Roth. 

James North and Philip Weiss

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14 Responses

  1. Misterioso on January 14, 2020, 1:06 pm

    “Israel Said to be Concerned About Secret ICC Arrest Warrants” The Algemeiner,
    January 12/20 by Israel Hayom

    “Members of Israel’s Diplomatic-Security Cabinet are said to be ‘profoundly concerned’ that the International Criminal Court will launch a war crimes investigation against Israel within 90 days and may issue secret arrest warrants against Israeli officials.

    “Last month, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced: ‘I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,’ adding,
    ‘There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed in the context of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza.'”

  2. Talkback on January 14, 2020, 1:23 pm

    Gotta make sure that the “democracy” is only for Jews and “Jewish” for anybody else.

    • eljay on January 14, 2020, 1:53 pm

      || Talkback: Gotta make sure that the “democracy” is only for Jews and “Jewish” for anybody else. ||

      Jewish supremacism in a supremacist “Jewish State” – whodathunkit?!

  3. wondering jew on January 14, 2020, 5:45 pm

    Nice headline. But propaganda.
    The numbers are not there. The most natural coalition to lead the country is Netanyahu supported by Lieberman. (If Lieberman had been political rather than vindictive, Bibi would have had the numbers in April and he had the numbers in September.) But Lieberman is out to sink Netanyahu, to thwart him and to sink him. That is why there is no coalition. Period.
    The flirtation with Joint List was pro forma, an attempt at sleight of hand, but not for real. The numbers were not there to build anything but a house of cards.
    The numbers that the center right (Blue and White) could gather from the left including the Joint List did not add up to 61 or 60 or 59 or 58, you can look up and find out the precise number. a majority of 120 is 61. it was only the addition of Lieberman that would put them over and Lieberman is a natural ally of the right (worse than many on the right in fact in terms of rhetoric of belligerency.)
    There is no equality in Israel, but the Knesset coalition making at this time, with the weakness of the center and the strength of the right, is not near to being in the majority even with the Joint List and that’s what the numbers say.
    The Blue White includes Yaalon, who is pure right winger through and through (security rather than messiah, but still pure right winger). why is he there? because bibi has been riding roughshod over the personalities in the Knesset, including Yaalon and so Yaalon left Likud and was picked up by Blue White.
    The weakness of the Jewish left wing is apparent, but the reason there is no coalition is because Bibi Netanyahu is prime minister and Avigdor Lieberman is making life miserable for Bibi Netanyahu. The issue of the joining of forces of the Jewish left and the Palestinian Israelis or Arab Israelis is percolating underneath, but the numbers are not there to justify the propaganda headline.

    • bcg on January 14, 2020, 10:22 pm

      “The flirtation with Joint List was pro forma, an attempt at sleight of hand, but not for real. ”

      So what does that say about Israel? 20% of Israeli citizens – citizens, to repeat – are Palestinian, so what does it say that there is no “real” attempt to bring the Joint List into the government?

      • wondering jew on January 14, 2020, 11:05 pm

        It says very little. They would not have had a majority. The numbers were not there. You need 61 to have a barely working majority. Even if the right wing of blue white had had no objections it would have added up to 57. The numbers made it a game. You have to have 61 for it to be real. 57 makes it a game.

    • Misterioso on January 15, 2020, 10:01 am

      @wondering jew

      In short, further confirmation that “Israel’s” political system is controlled by Zionist racists.

      • Mooser on January 18, 2020, 10:05 pm

        “In short, further confirmation that “Israel’s” political system is controlled by Zionist racists.”

        Yes, and “wj” has been extremely persuasive in showing us that the Israelis want it that way.

    • eljay on January 18, 2020, 10:44 pm

      || wondering jew: … The most natural coalition to lead the country is Netanyahu supported by Lieberman. … ||

      For sure. Who better to lead a supremacist “Jewish State” than a coalition of die-hard Jewish supremacists?

    • Mooser on January 18, 2020, 10:12 pm

      Israel will never again see a civil government. From here we go to the junta: The IDF knows what to do, the Rabbinate administers “personal status”, and “security forces” keep Israelis in line.

      Don’t worry, “Jon s” you’ll do fine, remember: As goes the right, so goes the all-rightnik.

      • RoHa on January 19, 2020, 12:27 am

        “Israel will never again see a civil government. ”

        Has Israel ever had one? All past Israeli governments seemed to be pretty rude.

  4. Misterioso on January 15, 2020, 9:56 am

    A reminder:

    Zionists – Sick, sick, sick!!


    “Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel’s Hilltop Youth” Al Jazeera, Nov. 13, 2018

    “Meet the hardline group willing to do anything, including going against their government, to claim land for Israel.”

    “Residing on outposts often neighbouring areas populated heavily by Palestinians (not to be confused with Israeli settlements) the Hilltop Youth are known for their extreme religious nationalism. Mostly made up of young people between the ages of 16 and 25, the group are followers of Kahanism; an ideology based on the teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.”

    “Rut Goldberg, settler and Kahane follower: ‘Personally, it doesn’t bother me if an Arab baby dies…I don’t care if Arabs live or die. I prefer them dead.’

  5. Mooser on January 15, 2020, 12:59 pm

    If everybody knows what the policy is forming a government only makes somebody responsible for it.
    If Israel can get one without the other, why bother with a government?

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