Israelis will head to the polls next April to elect a new government. But none of the major parties are offering any real change when it comes to the occupation or social justice issues. This is where the left has a role to play.
Amid a number of coalition crises and the possibility of an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaders of the Israeli government announced Monday that they would be dissolving the Knesset and holding elections on April 9th.
The elections will put an end to the most right-wing government in Israeli history, and if the last few years have taught us anything, election season will inevitably be rife with racist incitement against Palestinians and other minorities.
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But what will the next elections be about? What’s on the agenda beyond the public’s love or disdain for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his multiple corruption scandals, or competition among cadres of elites? What isn’t on the agenda? And most importantly: what can the left offer?
The vast majority of political parties running in the upcoming elections — and which are slated to gain the majority of Knesset seats — will not offer a different vision for a reality that has become almost natural in Israel. A reality in which we lord over millions of Palestinians who lack basic civil or human rights. Netanyahu, Labor’s Avi Gabbay, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman — none of them is proposing to end the military regime in the West Bank.
None of them is proposing to end the siege on Gaza, the largest open-air prison in the world, or to bring about a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. None of them have anything to offer by way of peace and equality for all residents of this land as a basis for a political solution. In fact, none of them has any solution beyond the status quo.
The difference between the major parties will be about how much force needs to be used against the Palestinians. They will be about whether Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot an incapacitated Palestinian in the head in Hebron, needs to be convicted, not whether Israel should control Hebron in the first place. They will be about whether approving another 60 settlement outposts in the West Bank is a good idea, but not whether Ariel or Ma’aleh Adumim are morally justified. They will be about whether and just how far to go in ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, but not about what a peace deal could look like.
The occupation is the most critical issue we won’t vote on in the upcoming elections — but it is not the only one. Like Israel’s military regime, the country’s lurch toward neoliberalism does not seem up for debate. Those running are either in bed with Israel’s biggest tycoons, are former tycoons themselves, or are stars of the Israeli hi-tech scene. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor remains, living costs are skyrocketing, and public housing is disappearing. Not a single prominent politician has suggested raising taxes on the wealthy, creating more public housing, raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, or policies that will help fight the looming climate disaster.
How many political parties will support equality between Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel? Who will commit to protecting women from gender violence that has raged across the country and left 25 women dead this year? Who will support granting rights and protection to African asylum seekers? Who will say loudly that they recognize the plight of Yemenite families whose children were disappeared in the 1950s?
The Israeli left has an enormous role to play. It is our job to provide an alternative to the path we are going down. It is our job to stand up for principles of solidarity, equality, and social justice for all those who live in Israel-Palestine. In these dark times, this is the vision we need, for all those who love this place and call it their home.