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The most critical issues Israelis won't be voting on in the next election

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. 

A Palestinian woman seen after after crossing the a fence that had been damaged by demonstrators during the protest near the Gaza-Israel border fence, Gaza Strip, September 28, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman seen after after crossing the a fence that had been damaged by demonstrators during the protest near the Gaza-Israel border fence, Gaza Strip, September 28, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

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.

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, December 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, December 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

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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.

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    1. Ben

      And if anyone thought Netanyahu couldn’t outdo himself in cynical, manipulative fakery about Israeli “security,” read this:
      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-how-trump-accidentally-exposed-netanyahu-s-bluff-on-the-timing-of-israel-s-election-1.6781489

      Netanyahu, however, is not anomalous, he is representative, representative of the government’s longstanding use of fake “security” issues to sustain the occupation. Netanyahu, being Netanyahu, has only refined it to an art form.

      Reply to Comment
    2. brightdark

      “The elections will put an end to the most right-wing government in Israeli history” and you think you won’t get another just like it?

      Reply to Comment
    3. itshak Gordine

      All this is leftist logorrhea that no longer interests anyone in Israel. What most Israelis favor is security, including less restraint againsi Israel’s enemies, construction in Judea and Samaria for nationalistic reasons and also to lower real estate prices and protection for low-income people. With a virtually non-existent unemployment rate, a prosperous economy, a powerful currency, new diplomatic relations including with Arab-Muslims states, this government can boast exceptional achievements for the benefit of the entire Israeli population and its minorities.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “for the benefit of the entire Israeli population and its minorities”

        That’s right, folks, for Halevy, there’s the Israeli population (read Jews) and then there’s that population’s “minorities,” not quite the Israeli population, something separate and apart, and “its minorities” are like invited guests who stay at the overlord’s pleasure (but let me quote Halevy himself: “they can stay if they obey our laws and submit to our sovereignty”). Haley does not say “including its minorities,” he just says “its minorities,” because to him they are something like his property or a possession. With this, and since the royal Halevy is such a keen economist and likes to coldly look at the balance sheet and count his riches while others in the realm suffer, what comes to mind is this from an review of Shir Hever’s book:

        https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/hls.2011.0009

        ‘Hever concludes that ‘(e)ven at the cost of a huge economic burden, certain groups in Israel are committed to preserving the sharply etched hierarchy that distinguishes between dominators and dominated, between citizens and subjects, between occupier and occupied. This hierarchy awards social capital to Jews over non-Jews, and is one explanation why the majority of the Israeli public supports the continuation of the occupation, even to the detriment of its standard of living’ (p. 187). This is an important point to make, and one that many critical analyses of Israel’s occupation ignore. Unfortunately, however, while Hever insists on the theoretical importance of explaining this problematic, he either sidesteps the political implications of his analysis, i.e. that the strength of Zionism amongst Jewish-Israelis will prevent peace and justice; or he has concluded that changing Jewish-Israeli opinion is unlikely and thus the international community (defined as governments, civil society and social movements) has to force Israel to change (p. 199).

        In his final chapter, Hever suggests that while the ‘two-state solution’ is not impossible (he stresses that it is up to Palestinians to choose and does not wish to ignore or dismiss those who yearn for it), it is now unlikely and that deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians will continue over the key issues of borders, the settlements, East Jerusalem and the refugees (see also Hilal, 2007). He thus weighs up two ‘conflict scenarios’: a pessimistic one where the violence escalates and draws other regional players into the confrontation, and an optimistic one where a non-violent civil rights movement of Palestinians and their supporters leads to a single democratic, binational state. The latter, he argues, requires a ‘different type of struggle’ exemplified by groups such as the global Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement and the International Solidarity Movement which advocate non-violent resistance (pp. 198–201).’

        This will all be “leftist logorrhea” to Halevy, but in my experience Halevy never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to get the main point.

        Reply to Comment