(Likud supporters celebrate death and violence in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Nir Elias/Reuters)
A few hours after polls closed in Israel last night, commentators were already calling the election a draw. It looked like right-wing Likud and centrist Zionist Union would get the same number of seats, leading to a long, complicated process of forming a government. But if one of the parties gained more Knesset seats than the other, that party gets 42 days to form a government.
For a short while, a small party led by Israel’s former Finance Minister looked set to decide the election. Kulanu focuses on economic egalitarianism and social liberalism, and had remained neutral about possible coalition partners during the election cycle. Despite only having 10 seats, Kulanu may have chosen which large party got the first chance at governing, but by the middle of the night, it became clear Netanyahu’s party had inched ahead, snatching away the last chance Palestinians had at some respite.
(Election results via Haaretz)
Incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ran on a campaign of fear, racism, violence, and hatred. A week before the polls opened, the aptly-named ‘Butcher of Gaza’ reneged on his 2009 promises and vowed never to allow a Palestinian state to exist, a clear endorsement of ethnic cleaning.
But that’s not even the worst thing the Butcher did this election. His last-ditch attempt to cling to power came on election day, when he released a campaign video warning white Israelis that the Arabs were coming for them, and to vote for him so he could put a stop to the danger they pose. The Prime Minister of a so-called democratic nation used ethnic minorities as a scare-tactic to gain votes.
That’s not to suggest peace was imminent if Zionist Union won the election. Co-leaders Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog don’t exactly have a good track record of distancing themselves from Netanyahu’s hawkishness, and have both endorsed the occupation of Palestine in one form or another.The only clear difference with Likud is that ZU wants a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians, but for the most part, ZU is merely a slightly less murderous version of Likud.
The legislative elections produced a turnout of around 72%, and it’s no wonder. Close to home, the situation in Palestine has become untenable, and while many voters favoured a resumption in negotiations with Palestinian leaders, others had criticized Netanyahu for not being harsh enough on resistance movements and the “disloyalty” of Israeli-Arabs. It’s clear which side won out.
Further afield, Netanyahu received polarized reactions to his controversial speech to the U.S. Congress, in which he urged America not to negotiate a deal with Iran over its supposed nuclear programme. With the help of treasonous Republicans, Netanyahu urged the world not to step back from the brink of nuclear war, and was accused by some American intelligentsia of biting the hand that feeds.
Beset by European boycotts, rebuked by international tribunals, estranged from the president of the United States—it’s not a pretty picture [in Israel]. (Jonathan Alter)
Israel has never been more isolated in its entire history. The Parliaments of Western Europe are falling like dominoes and voting to recognize a Palestinian state, and Sweden’s government became the first to do so in the region. South Africa has cut all friendly ties with Israel, keeping diplomacy to a bare minimum. To top it off, the International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into alleged war crimes at the hands of the IDF.
Even the government of Israel’s staunchest ally is sick of Netanyahu. The Obama Administration made it clear that Netanyahu was not the guy they wanted in power after his speech to Congress, rebuffing him while he visited, and approving the covert funding of opposition groups in order to oust him. A Senate investigation is being conducted in response.
Palestinian life meanings nothing to the majority of Israeli society. Not only did 23% of the electorate vote for Likud, who have overseen the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians, but 254,663 Israelis voted for Habayit Hayehudi, whose leader favours ethnically cleaning parts of the West Bank. 205,619 Israelis also voted for Yisrael Beiteinu, whose leader recently called for the beheading of disloyal Arab-Israelis.
To make matters worse, a combined total of 436,286 Israeli voters opted for Shas or United Torah Judaism, both right-wing religious parties that ban females from standing as candidates. In a country of 5 million eligible voters, nearly half a million voters opting for the religious extremists is worrying indeed.
Israeli voters had three choices in this election: Grant Israel and Palestine the peace they desperately need by supporting progressive parties, perpetuate fruitless negotiations by supporting “liberal Zionism”, or descend further down a path of international isolation, violence and murder. It chose the latter, and it’s no telling how many more Palestinians will suffer and die as a result.
The walls of the voting booths in Israel are stained with blood. Every Israeli who voted to continue the occupation have it on their hands.