Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support -- click here to help us keep going

Analysis News

The rise of the extreme right is the story of the Israeli elections

There are two new elections polls out, both following the trends of the last few weeks. First, Netanyahu’s right-Orthodox bloc is pulling ahead, now polling 67.5 seats in our average (out of the Knesset’s 120). As I argued when the elections were called, it’s clear that no candidate but Netanyahu will be able to form the next government.

But another story is unfolding before our eyes, and that’s the rise of the extreme right. The National Religious Party – traditionally the political home of the settlers – is now polling at around 13 seats. The more extreme Otzma LeYisrael, led by former Kahane man Michael Ben Ari, passes the Knesset threshold in roughly half of all polls, generally getting between two and three seats. That’s 15-16 seats, compared to the seven both parties have in the current Knesset. The popular leader of NRP, Naftali Bennett, was attacked by almost all other parties this weekend for an interview he gave in which he said he would ask his army commanders to relieve him from evacuating settlements, were he ever to receive such an order. It seems that Bennet only benefited from the controversy.

At the same time, the Likud-Beitenu party (the joint ticket of Prime Minister Netanyahu and resigning Foreign Minister Lieberman) is registering an all-time low since the unification was announced, with 35.5 seats, as opposed to the 42 they have now. Add to that the rise of the settlers and other hawks within the Likud itself, and you get the story of the elections: the rise to power of a new right-wing elite, which is firmly commited to the settlements. Recent developments, like the recognition of the college at Ariel as Israel’s first university in the occupied West Bank, or the refusal of Likud leaders to even pay lip service to a Palestinian state, should be seen in this context.

This graph shows the numbers for the Likud vs. the (even more) extreme right in the last couple of months.

There were some speculations that Netanyahu would try for a centrist and even a secular government after the elections, but if those trends continue, the Likud will simply be too small, and the prime minister will need to return to his “natural allies” at the right. In both cases, it’s clear that the next Knesset will deepen Israeli control over the occupied territories, and more right-wing representatives will fill the ranks of Israeli bureaucracy, justice system and security establishment. What’s happening in these elections is beyond a question of the political fates Netanyahu or Lieberman, and it reflects a deep change Israel has been going through for two decades or more.

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      Last time the same story would have been written about the rise of Lieberman and Israel Beyteinu. Now it seems he has turned into a pussycat and his place at the fearmongering table has been taken by Bennett.

      The more interesting story is the rise of people like Hotovely, Elkin, Edelstein and Feiglin within the Likud itself. These people could have easily found an ideological home in the Jewish Home party.

      Another interesting story would have been the strong consensus reaction against the idea that a soldier can refuse orders if he believes they are illegal or unethical.

      Reply to Comment
      • Mitchell Cohen

        Regarding Naphtali Bennett “refusing orders”, lots of noise has been made over a mouse being born. All Bennett said is that he, personally would have a moral issue with throwing people (he outright said Arabs as well in the interview BTW) and would ask his commander if he could be excused if he was given such a command. He also said he would be willing to sit in jail, rather than carry out such a command. As if that is enough, he specifically said he is NOT calling for soldiers to refuse orders, just that he would have a problem with a specific order and would be willing to suffer the consequences for going against it. He couldn’t have made himself more clear, yet the media (with Netanyahu being the worst offender of all) have twisted Bennett’s words to serve their agenda. Interestingly, there bloggers on this very site who brag about how they refused to serve in the army (some spending time in prison; others not). So, if Bennett is willing to suffer the consequences of his decision, what’s the problem? That the left, and, even more so, the Likud is getting nervous from Bennett is obvious.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Everything you say is true, yet it is difficult (if not impossible) to differentiate between a public figure stating that they themselves would carry out an act and support for that act in principle.

          What was interesting to me was the deep and broad rejection of the idea that refusal to carry out orders is acceptable under some circumstances in the first place. This is something that even Arik Sharon himself argued to the contrary.

          Reply to Comment
        • “All Bennett said is that he, personally would have a moral issue with throwing people (he outright said Arabs as well in the interview BTW) and would ask his commander if he could be excused if he was given such a command.” : Civil disobedience has no required political home. But it is incompatible with corporate nationalism, where the individual is a cell, near bodily cell, of the State or nation. So, having heard his position in full from you, I think it an honorable one.

          Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      The rise of the “Bayit Yehudi”-National Religious Party is more compliated than simply indicating
      a “shift to the Right” of a large group of voter….it represents a political resurgance of the Religious Zionist voters who have been politically marginalized for 30 years or more. The old NRP was run by an increasingly out-of-touch clique of politicians which alienated a most of their voters. Many RZ voters ended up voting for the Likud or SHAS or the National Union but their ideology, paticularly in religious matters and education which diverged considerably from the political agenda of the Haredi parties and the Likud which pretty much supported the Haredi line, was not represented in the Knesset. Naftali Bennet and his Knesset list are finally articulating these values in a clear and convincing matter, which interestingly, is also attracting non-religious voters. If the party can avoid the fractionation that has afflicted so many political movements in Israel that started out with a group of idealists but which subsequently degenerated (e.g. Shulamit Alonis RATZ party which was swallowed up and destroyed by the MAPAM political machine) this movement can have a bright future and even eventually challenge the Likud for supremacy on the political Right.

      Reply to Comment
    3. “it’s clear that the next Knesset will deepen Israeli control over the occupied territories, and more right-wing representatives will fill the ranks of Israeli bureaucracy, justice system and security establishment. What’s happening in these elections is beyond a question of the political fates Netanyahu or Lieberman, and it reflects a deep change Israel has been going through for two decades or more.” : There seem to be three strands for expanding the occupation, all benefiting from one another: 1) The secular national security view which sees the settlements as a front line against Arab attack, of all kinds; 2) Yahwehists who see expanding into the Bank as a divine order; 3) economic interests who benefit from such expansion. The latent opposition is the Israeli Middle Class proper. If its standard of living is under threat, questions of monetary outlays to the Bank may surface. But, in contradiction, Arab citizens within Israel may find themselves still without hope as the Middle Class marginalizes Arab calls for equality. I see nothing to disaude me that the political and economic intergration of the Bank will continue. Anger at the existence of an Other is an old political weapon, and it will continue to be employed under expansion. I see no hope at all until the inevitable several crises occur.

      Reply to Comment
    4. klang

      Why do you think support for these extreme right parties is increasing at the expense of the left? Apparently, the editors at 972 mag are not having much impact on the Israeli electorate. Why is that?

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        The Left is in decline because it is morally and spiritually bankrupt. They ruled Israeol for decades and began to believe they had a divine right to control the country and to delegitimize the opposition. They controlled the economy and used this control to enrich themselves at the public expense. They promised a peace agreement which was never attainable and their whole so-called “peace process” blew up in their faces. They attempted initially to create something called “Labor Zionism” which was an unnatural combination of Jewish nationalism and “progressivism” and socialism which can’t really dwell together. They then threw out the socialism but failed to replace it with anything else, leaving a vacuum…..no peace as promised, no socialism, no vision of the future, no nothing. Most people who vote for the Left do it out of tribalistic identity, not out of any real belief that their parties stand for anything.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          I don’t agree. The left has a vision, it just happens to be delusional and obsolete. Socialism has been replaced with social democracy, which is doing fine in some parts of the world as an ideology. It is on the peace side that all their troubles lie. Ari Shavit has a good writeup of the many deaths of the ‘center-left’ in Haaretz. His terminology of refering to the ‘center-left’ as a block is somewhat annoying, but it is an excellent writeup of where the left has failed. He basically calls the current positions of the Israeli left delusional.

          Reply to Comment
      • In the American Jim Crow South, liberals of the day held no important elective offices at all. Why was that?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Because they couldn’t offer an alternative that the majority of their citizens found palatable? Your point being?

          Reply to Comment
    5. NormanF

      Its the demographics, stupid.

      Religious and haredi families are having lots and lots of kids and these are the new Israelis of the future.

      The Israeli Left and the Arabs are in demographic decline. Add to that the fact they are bankrupt and devoid of any fresh ideas.

      Put it all together and you’re looking at the future of Israel and its not one the Arabs, the Europeans and the State Department want to see but this is the Israel they will have to come to terms with in the decades to come.

      Reply to Comment

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Name (Required)
    Mail (Required)
    Website
    Free text

© 2010 - 2014 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website empowered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel