Israeli Election Analysis

I’ve been far busier than I expected to be (if you ever study Advanced Higher History in Scotland, anticipate the amount of research you’ll have to do!), which is likely only to get worse for the next two weeks, so I apologise if this isn’t as in depth as I would like.  The matter is also incredibly complicated and I know woefully little, but here is a basic analysis of the Israeli election held on the 22nd January.

The results:

As you can see, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu coalition did indeed win the most votes of any party, and by a large margin.  But this is Israeli politics where votes tend to be scattered among a large number of parties, so even the ‘winner’ of this election won less than a quarter of the popular vote, which corresponds to its particular influence.

Predictions for the election suggested that the Israeli electorate would shift into the far-right, with expectations that the Jewish Home party and orthodox Jewish parties would do well.  And while collectively these parties did gain around a quarter of the vote, the main winner of the election seems to have been the centrist party, Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, which is almost certain to be included within any potential coalition.  But even if Netanyahu does ally with Yesh Atid, which could easily happen despite their opposing views on Palestine and other issues*, they’ll collectively still only hold 50 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.  They could form a minority government, but with Israel’s divided and potentially unstable system this might be unwise.

Possibilities to complete this coalition with one more party would be with either Labor, The Jewish Home or Shas.  The most commonly cited party is The Jewish Home, though it stands opposed to Yesh Atid on many issues – such as forcing ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the armed forces – so it’s unclear how successful this would be.  I’m not sure why Labor hasn’t been touted as a greater possibility; perhaps because it disagrees with Likud Beiteinu on so many issues.  Neither side seems willing to engage with the Jewish religious factions.  The Liberals don’t have enough seats to join a coalition, and I can’t see the Arab parties being included.  But this process of negotiating the formation of a government could go on for months, and even then could end in failure and force a second election to take place.

So this could go any way.  I personally do not want The Jewish Home to be part of any potential government, though the surprising and welcome success of Yesh Atid may counteract the negative impact they could have.  Stay tuned!

*Netanyahu, going by his settlement policies, appears to support the one-state solution – i.e. that Israel takes control of the West Bank and incorporates it into its territory.  Lapid would prefer a two-state solution in which Palestine would achieve independence, though even he is in agreement that Israel should occupy the entirety of Jerusalem.

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Israel’s Obsession with Walls

Israel appears to be developing an obsession with walls and barricades that would have made the Romans proud.*  First came the infamous West Bank barrier, which upon completion will cover around 700km, clearly separating the territory of Israel and the West Bank.  The Gaza Strip is separated similarly.  The stated purpose of this was to protect Israeli civilians from Palestinian terrorism, and in that respect is appears to have been a success.  But underneath this reasoning there may be a humanitarian disaster for the Palestinians.  The Palestinian economy declined between 2000 and 2002 as work on the barrier began, and has only made a feebly recovery.  Communities have been cut in half.  They have lost their human right to the freedom of movement.  This isn’t even getting into Israel’s highly criticised settlement policy.

The city of Jerusalem is increasingly becoming cut in half, between West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem.  Both Palestine and Israel consider Jerusalem their capital city – and of course, neither respect the right of the other to exist.  Israel, having won the most wars and gaining the most foreign military aid, now appears to exist more so than Palestine.  But that’s a different subject/rant altogether.  Jerusalem is bearing more and more resemblances to  Cold War Berlin, separated by the Berlin Wall.  We can only hope this wall will be brought down as peacefully.

Then I read the news article which inspired this post, commenting on the Israel-Egypt barrier being built along the border at Sinai.  And then, just as I was planning this post in my head, I read this news story of yet another barrier being planned, this time along the eastern border of the Golan Heights as a result of the Syrian Civil War.

The Golan Heights were captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and have remained in their possession ever since.   As the Syrian Civil War becomes ever more violent and bloody it has begun spilling into other countries – this can be seen in both Lebanon and Turkey.  Israel has remained neutral during the war – again a whole other subject – and does not want to be affected by the instability.  So up goes another wall.  Once more this barrier protects Israel from terrorism, this time the terrorists being radical Islamist insurgents who have gained influence in the Sinai region since the Egyptian Revolution.  However it was also intended to cut off the flow of African migrants into Israel, and in that respect it will certainly be successful once reaching completion early this year.  It is also hoped to crack down on illegal drug trafficking.

While there may be some legitimate reasons for all this obsessive building of walls, the fact is that it does nothing for Israel’s image of being an imperialist occupier, and the idea that a Second Apartheid is developing between the Jews and Arabs of the region.  In fact, a quick search with the words ‘barrier’ and ‘wall’ brings up results for every single one of Israel’s neighbours, though not all of these are quite so dramatic in scale.  Virtually, there are walls over every single one of Israel’s borders.  Extreme paranoia, an abuse of human rights or necessary defence?  I could not say.

*Well, okay, the Romans would have resented any attempt of wall-building by Israel, but that’s besides the point…