The recent Israeli elections, the third within a year, have predictably failed to produce a straightforward Zionist majority, neither for the right-wing nor for the center-left. But, the math could work out for a “minority government” by the center-left, if the Joint List, representing mostly Palestinian citizens of Israel were to offer its outside support. The Joint List got 15 seats this time, a record. If that number is added to Blue White’s 33, Labor-Gesher-Meretz’s 7, and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu’s 7, it adds up to 62 votes in favor of the government, which is a majority in the 120-seat parliament. The point of this would be to garner more recommendations for Benny Gantz as Prime Minister than the right-wing bloc can garner for Netanyahu (which is 58).
But such a government would be a “minority” government. The Joint List would not actually be in the government. No Palestinian ministers. The actual parties forming the government would only hold a minority of Knesset seats. But the point would be to establish a Zionist government of 47 seats, and pass laws that limit Netanyahu’s ability to be Prime Minister. According to Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu:
“The first law [will] limit the tenure of a prime minister to two terms. The second law [will] prevent an MK facing indictment from forming a government.”
This political exigency of preventing Netanyahu makes these people swallow a lot of pills.
Liberman has called the Joint List “terrorists” and proposed to decapitate disloyal Palestinians with an axe; Blue-White leaders have said that the Joint List is not to be relied upon even as a supporting party. Both Benny Gantz as well as Yair Lapid have stressed the importance of a “Jewish majority”. Yair Lapid later regretted using the term, he said it “didn’t come out well” and said that he really meant a Zionist majority.
But let’s look at that “Jewish majority”, because the term is not what it appears to be. If one looks at the numbers, even the presence of the Joint List, God forbid, in government, would not really endanger either a Jewish majority or a Zionist one. They only have 15 seats – so what’s the danger? The logic is that the mere presence of non-Jews (or non-Zionists) is in itself diluting the purity of the majority: it becomes not purely Jewish. Whether one says Jewish or Zionist, that formulation is racist as hell, and is actually essentially Zionist. The logic of this is perhaps more precisely articulated by Netanyahu’s Justice Minister Amir Ohana:
“The Arab voice is equal to a Jew’s when it comes to the Knesset elections, but not the government.”
In other words, it’s that make-believe democracy , known as “Jewish and democratic”, which really means that it’s a democracy for Jews, and that Palestinians can help the Zionists form their government, but they can’t actually get in it.
When Netanyahu counted the election bloc results, he didn’t even count the Joint List in. “The nation’s decision is clear”, he said. “58 mandates to the Zionist-right camp and 47 mandates to the Zionist-leftist camp”.
With all its racist ugliness, that statement is basically reflecting the racism of the mainstream Zionist perception of the place of Palestinians in the elections and in the government. They don’t really exist, and if they do, it’s only to help the Zionists form their government, in which they are not welcome.
The prospect of even just relying upon Palestinians for external support was also a big pill to swallow for Blue-White and even those on its left; and Orly Levy-Abekasis, who had joined Labor and Meretz from the right, couldn’t swallow it. Levy said yesterday that a Joint List-backed minority government “violates basic norms and values,” and that she no longer sees herself committed to the partnership with Meretz.
Levy was formerly a Yisrael Beitenu member, then ran independent in 2017, and in 2019 was brought in by Labor leader Amir Peretz in an apparent attempt to appeal rightwards, getting seat number 2 on that list. That bet seemed to have failed, and even the merging with Meretz on the left failed to produce more than 7 seats for what has become the remnants of the Zionist left. Now, Levy shows her true rightist colors. The “norms and values” she speaks of are of course those puritan Zionist ones, and she places herself ideologically even to the right of Blue-White Leader Moshe Yaalon (nr. 3 on list), who has agreed to swallow the Arab pill – the same Yaalon who in the past compared Palestinians to “cancer” and said he was applying “chemotherapy”.
And there is also more dissent on the right flank of Blue-White. Two members, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, are former Netanyahu aides, and they object to a government that is brought about by support from the Joint List. The two have in the past boycotted the Blue-White orientalist “rally for democracy” when they heard that Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh was booked to speak.
Moshe Ya’alon has reportedly shouted at the two in a closed meeting, in attempt to get them to accept the fate of having to rely on those Arabs. For their part, they appear to be pushing a “unity” government, of the two largest parties, Blue-White and Likud. But it appears easier for most of Blue-White to swallow the Arab pill than the Netanyahu one. “Just not Netanyahu” is, after all, their ethos, and perhaps the only thing that really distinguishes them from Likud.
Hendel and Hauser have so far denied any intention of defecting and going over to Likud– keeping Netanyahu premier– but we shall see.
These are the dramas of this week in the Jewish Democracy. A drama in which Palestinian citizens only get to play a ‘support’ role, and where they are basically treated as if they have the Coronavirus.