Israel is currently on the precipice of a potentially dramatic political shift. The Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, has called for early parliamentary elections to take place in November. On Oct. 28, Netanyahu announced that his right-wing party, Likud, will form a coalition with the ultra-right-wing, nationalist Israel Bateinu party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, the current Secretary of State. Netanyahu and Lieberman are widely regarded as the two most powerful political figures in Israel. Outspoken critics of Netanyahu who oppose his social and fiscal conservatism, aggressive foreign policy, and uncompromising stance in the peace process, have called the Likud-Bateinu alliance a political monopoly with potentially dire consequences. Gideon Levy, a prominent writer for Ha’aretz – Israel’s left leaning newspaper, asserted last week in an article titled “To powerfully lead”, that in regards to the Likud-Bateinu alliance:
The right wing was not unified, nor was Lieberman made legitimate. Instead, the two
bosses of Israeli politics said that all they wanted was more power. Israeli democracy
absorbed its deadliest blow to date, and more, even deadlier ones, are on the way.
Every Israeli, whether on the right or the left, in the center or indifferent to politics,
must know: If LikudBeiteinu wins, our home will be torn asunder. Don’t say you didn’t
know: Netanyahu and Lieberman have said this explicitly.
Levy further posits that within Netanyahu’s campaign rhetoric, there are increasingly apparent allusions to fascist governance. Netanyahu has repeatedly called for more “governability”, a term which Levy equates to one that “will be with us from now on, in order to crush political, ideological, and especially ethnic minorities.” Lieberman has espoused extensive governmental reform and the creation of a “presidential regime” as well, which he believes is closer to fruition than ever.2
I believe the Likud-Bateinu alliance poses a serious threat to Israeli democracy – a threat with repercussions that extend far beyond Israel itself. Such an alliance makes the prospect of a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities all the more real. The status of Palestinian peoplehood and the vitally important anti-occupation movement that advocates Palestinian statehood, would only be further ostracized from Israeli society and any possibility of a joint, cooperative future. With unquestioning political, economic, and military support from the White House, not to mention the absurd power of the AIPAC lobby, who will challenge Israel’s shift to the far right? It was recently exposed in an NPR report that 90 percent of Netanyahu’s campaign funding was raised in the United States (NPR News.) It seems then that there is little room for progressive North American Jewry and the organizations that represent them, such as the J Street Lobby, to challenge the dominance and strength of Netanyahu’s political power.
So often Israel is discussed singularly in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This lens is simultaneously rational and problematic. It is impossible to separate Israel from the occupation. Israel is, at this point, intrinsically an oppressive power, and the United States must persist in reprimanding Netanyahu’s endorsement of growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. However, while the conflict takes the spotlight within international media and the Israeli political discourse, domestic Israeli society has transformed from a socialist-style welfare state to a neoliberal ideological stronghold. Beyond the extreme foreign policy implications of the Likud-Bateinu coalition, Israeli society will continue to see increased privatization of social services and an extension of the massive wealth gap between the rich and poor.
As an active progressive Zionist who is both pro-Israel and pro-peace, I am deeply invested in the future of Israel. I fear that Israel’s shift to the far right will endanger the domestic, social safety net and antagonize neighboring relationships. But what does this mean for us at Colorado College? Do we care about the future of Israel and Palestine? Are we concerned about the close and complicated relationship between the U.S. and Israel? Rarely in my three plus years at CC have I engaged in a discussion about the region that extends beyond me grabbing an atlas and lecturing some half-interested friends for a little too long. I want to talk to ya’ll about Israel and Palestine. I want to know your opinions and concerns in regards to the occupation, conflict, history, current domestic issues facing the country, and whatever else. I want to engage in a discourse. So please, write me any questions you have or write a response in The Catalyst. I will write soon.