Israel is set to hold its fourth parliamentary election in two years. Since 2019, he has emerged from one chaotic election season to plunge into another.
But Israel’s national elections weren’t always the electoral whirlwind they are today, with a dozen parties campaigning on blitz, tinged with marketing gimmicks and populist slogans and marred by vicious condemnations and personal attacks. .
For the first three decades after its independence, Israel held national elections every four years, with Labor Zionists waging boring and rigid campaigns against the loudest and most extremist Revisionist Zionists, with the victory of the former almost falling. always assured in advance.
As the ruling party that controlled most of the pillars of the state, the Labor Party (then called Mapai) and its junior partners each won by large margins amid successive wars and an influx of unprecedented immigration.
But Labor’s winning streak ended in 1977, when the revisionist Likud Party won the most seats and formed a government with a broad coalition of new liberals, radicalized Labor and religious Zionists.
The political and economic liberalization that followed in Israel paved the way for the decentralization of its political party system and the emergence of new parties reflecting new religious, ethnic and social divisions. Generals and radical settlers also succeeded in securing a greater role in the political arena.
The more parties there were in the Knesset, the more difficult it became for the two main parties – the Labor Party and the Likud – to establish and maintain coalition governments. They have become hostages to the narrow interests of each coalition partner, whether religious, secular, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Russian, leftist, far right, or supported by settlers.
In 2014, both parties raised the threshold for entry into parliament to 3.25% of the vote, in the hope of reducing their dependence on smaller parties. But the problem of coalition building persisted with the more stubborn mid-sized parties.
With the exception of the 1977 elections which saw a radical shift to Likud under Menachem Begin and the 1992 elections which allowed a temporary return to the Labor Party under Yitzhak Rabin, most elections produced a great deal of grief but no change. in the main axes that led Israel. national security “.
Rabin was assassinated at the hands of a radical Jewish fanatic in 1995, in an atmosphere of hatred, intolerance and betrayal whipped up by none other than Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rabin’s unforgivable “crime” was to get a vote on a transitional peace deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with the help of Palestinian Knesset members.
And although, as I have explained elsewhere, these agreements produced the current reality of apartheid in Palestine / Israel, the mere fact that Rabin dared to engage in the U.S.-led diplomatic process with only an “Israeli majority” not a solid “Jewish majority” ”Behind him in parliament, that meant, well, he deserved to die.
The Israeli right rewarded Netanyahu’s deadly obstruction by electing him as prime minister the following year. But their support waned after Prime Minister Mercuriel signed two transitional peace accords, the Hebron Protocol and the Wye River Memorandum, with the PLO.
The 1999 elections, the first of two direct elections for prime minister, paved the way for the decisive victory of Israel’s most decorated Labor and general candidate Ehud Barak, who fundamentally berated Netanyahu for giving so much to Palestinians without getting much in return. .
But soon enough, Barak’s military arrogance prevailed, as he tried and failed to impose an unfair “take it or leave it” solution on the Palestinians at the Camp David summit hosted by President Bill Clinton. in 2000.
The 1999 election was the last Labor won. From then on, its popularity waned, in part because of the follies of its leaders, in part because the Israelis became even more belligerent, especially after the Second Intifada, and in part because over time Israel’s confident and prosperous has stopped caring about peace.
I’m also convinced that the Labor Party’s poor performance at the polls has something to do with Netanyahu’s evil genius and his nasty alliance with US President Donald Trump after 2017. The party went down from 24 seats in 2015 (along with his partner center-left Hatnuah) to six in 2019; he currently only holds two seats in the Knesset.
The Labor Party, which established and ruled the state during its difficult first three decades and which was once the engine of the “peace camp” in Israel, is now threatened with extinction, as it is expected to be extinct. that more of his supporters vote for the center-right parties. , like Blue and White.
But even that amalgamation of political forces that was established by generals and public figures imploded, as its gullible leader, General Benny Gantz, despite promises to the contrary, joined a Netanyahu coalition last year, on the false promise of a future exchange of prime ministerial post.
He was of course duped.
And here we are again, at the end of the messy fourth election campaign, in which the Israeli leadership has doubled down on their promises of false starts that are likely to produce more of the same.
That’s why the morning after this week’s chaotic election, like the mornings after the previous six elections, may well produce another groundhog day with Netanyahu, the last negotiator, deftly dividing the government’s pie among his potential partners in the government. coalition.
If Netanyahu, who has been charged with corruption, is unable to form the next coalition government and escape prison, the alternative is also likely to produce more of the same political arrangements.
Suffice it to say that of the four different leaders who could save or inherit the post of Prime Minister from Netanyahu, two – Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman – were his chiefs of staff, one – Gideon Sa’ar – was his cabinet secretary and one – Yair Lapid – was a minister of his government.
The apple does not fall far from the tree, as they say.
More broadly, however, the next morning’s election circus, like most previous elections in Israel’s history, will likely reproduce the same diplomatic standoff, military aggression, occupation, and the threat of regional war. .
The Palestinian Authority may have found Israel’s centrist governments less cumbersome and more willing to deal diplomatically, but for the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, the Israeli elections have always produced more of the same racist-tinged recycled fool.
For them, there is little difference between the racism, repression, targeted assassinations, massacres, night raids, war crimes and outright terrorization of the civilian population, perpetrated by the various Israeli coalitions, which ‘they are centrist, right-wing or national unity governments. .
Regardless of who leads which government coalition, their position on the main challenges facing Israel was and remains too similar and familiar.
This includes enthusiastic support for Jewish immigration and the building of illegal Jewish settlements on confiscated Arab lands and the total rejection of Palestinian refugees’ right of return and the freedom to settle in their homeland.
It also includes unconditional bipartisan support for the “sacred” Israeli army, despite its war crimes and hegemonic and colonial practices under the pretext of “national security”.
Regardless of what was said or promised during election campaigns, including at the height of the peace process in the 1990s, Israeli leaders have long denied the Palestinians their right to a truly sovereign independent and contiguous state.
And the winners of this week’s election too.
If there was a delicate nuance or significant difference between the goals of Labor and their minions on the left and the Likudniks and their minions on the far right and far right, it is no longer relevant today. , mainly because the center and center-left parties are no longer relevant.
In the absence of Arab, American or international pressure, in the aftermath of their victory, Israeli leaders will once again adopt the anti-democratic and colonial mantras that have long guided their predecessors.
That is until the next election, which is sure to happen as soon as possible.