Israel Elects Its Bush

Israel is on the verge of taking a step backward and electing its own version of George Bush - Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

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The elections for the 17th Knesset have already been decided: Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister. Nothing will change the current trend, which was reflected in polls this weekend. At a time when the entire world, including Israel, is amazed and moved by the miracle election of Barack Obama, Israel is on the verge of electing George Bush.

Tzipi Livni will not become less feeble, and Ehud Barak will not fix his waywardness. And the new left-wing party in the works will not make a difference one way or the other - it is too little, too late. Israelis intend to vote for the conservative, right-wing, nationalist, bellicose candidate - the Israeli Bush. The world is moving forward, while Israel is taking a step backward.

Netanyahu may not be as awful as it would appear for the left, but the sweeping support he enjoys in the polls signals to us and to the world, including the Arab world, the true nature of Israeli society. Good riddance to the deceptive myth that most Israelis want peace; you can forget about all the deceitful polls that showed most of the public supports a two-state solution. No solution and no two states, but only the truth, which once again has been exposed: a nationalistic, belligerent society electing its spitting image as its leader.

Once every few years we have this referendum over the future of peace and the occupation, the main issue in every election campaign. Once every few years, the left is revealed to be as virtual a force as there ever was. Candidates bicker among themselves over who will "divide" and who will "return," who will "concede" and who will "give" - questions that are downright immoral given that the discussion is over territories that are not ours.

Ultimately, the candidate who is elected - every candidate who is elected - does too little, if anything at all, to advance peace and end the occupation. The deceptive dialogue - which implies that immediately after the elections, something will change - shatters, time after time. From this standpoint, there is no huge difference between the candidates. Nonetheless, the broad support for Netanyahu has deep significance. It reflects the nation's prevailing spirit: Israelis want the Arabs "to disappear," or at the very least to leave them in "quiet," it does not matter how. Forget about all the rest.

We will all vote for Netanyahu and his Likud party, with the bizarre Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon at the helm, and for a few more years of violence and occupation. We will vote Netanyahu and we will have "economic peace" and a right-wing economy, just like we want, just like we deserve. We will signal to the Arabs: Forget about peace, the Saudi initiative, a just and historic compromise, strengthening the moderates among you, and negotiations rooted in a genuine, sincere desire to reach peace. In the next breath, you will get the lie of "economic peace" and that famous, nonsensical "they'll give, they'll receive," and the "major operation" so desired in Gaza, which would mean the end of real negotiations.

Israeli society will once again get chants of "they are a-f-r-a-i-d," whispers of "the left has forgotten what it is to be Jewish," piggish capitalism and Thatcherism. Indeed, not even a particularly sharp microscope could spot any changes in Netanyahu since the last time Israelis got fed up with him. Nothing in him has changed - only we have changed. The nationalistic, bellicose genie has once again emerged from the bottle.

There are times when a vote for the right could signify a temporary postponement of inevitable historic processes. Not so this time. The Arab world is repeatedly knocking on Israel's door, nearly begging us to resolve the Palestinian problem and let everyone make peace; the president of Syria has made statements similar to those that brought Anwar Sadat here and is not being heeded; the desperate Palestinians are standing on the verge of the next major confrontation with us, led by Hamas in Gaza and soon in the West Bank; some of the former leaders of the right, chief among them Ehud Olmert, have finally awaken from their dangerous dreams of a Greater Land of Israel; and more than a few settlers are willing to consider leaving in exchange for compensation. As all these opportunities lie before us, Israel is voting in favor of rejection.

We are on the verge of electing a candidate who has explicitly declared that there is nothing to discuss with the Palestinians regarding a settlement, someone who has already proven his extensive pyromaniacal skills in opening the Western Wall tunnel, someone who tries to mislead the public with baseless statements about Palestinian industrial zones in place of evacuating settlements, and providing economic aid instead of granting the Palestinians political independence - as they are entitled, as every nation is entitled.

Netanyahu will once again deceive, Obama will keep his distance due to other urgent problems, opportunities will be missed and the fire will flare up again. This is what we want, and this is what we will get. Nonetheless, the inauspicious polls do contribute one thing: They rip off the disguise. An Israel that votes Likud does not want peace - no ifs, ands or buts.