Palestinians have no say over whether they will be ruled by messianic religious zealots or by generals who previously presided over the occupation.
On September 17, Israelis will return to the polls for round two of an election cycle that failed to determine an outcome in April, this time hoping for a different result. While there are some substantive differences between incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, when it comes to peace with the Palestinians the outcome matters much less. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz is inclined or capable of positively altering the reality on the ground and paving the way toward a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The central tension in Israeli politics today is not between pro- and anti-peace forces, but between security-focused pragmatists and religious-nationalist ideologues, both of them hailing from various points on the right side of the political spectrum. Moreover, for perhaps the first time, the ideologues in Israel are mirrored by likeminded counterparts in the White House. This has added real weight to their ability to act on their ideological positions despite vocal opposition from the security establishment.
The Israeli left, for its part, is politically irrelevant today and has been out of power for most of the past four decades. There are a number of reasons for this stemming from the collapse of the peace process, the violence of the Second Intifada, and the Labor Party’s decision over many years to empower and accede to the settlement movement.
But at least as salient a reason is that the left undermined its own policy position regarding peace by blaming and discrediting their partners in the Oslo Accords — the Palestinian leadership — for its ultimate failure. Whether valid or not, in doing so, they joined the Israeli right in claiming that Israel had no partner for peace, making it nearly impossible to resurrect the process once the dust from the intifada had settled. Today, the left lacks clarity on the issue of peace, and instead focuses much of its political program on economic issues and on slowing the anti-democratic wave sweeping the country.