In recent months, the cynics who live on Israeli social media have found a new target for their poisoned arrows: the Likud's attempt to reach out to Arab voters.
To criticize the Likud, they make jokes about Mansour Abbas, the Joint List MK from an Islamist faction who has joined hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and about how Israel’s right-wing is courting Hamas. The more Netanyahu visits Arab cities, and is welcomed with intense love and support, the more they ridicule him.
On the face of it, this might seem a strange, not to say unthinkable partnership: the Likud is a committed right-wing Zionist nationalist party that is unashamed and unrelenting in the pursuit of its goals. By contrast, Israel’s Arab citizens are considered a non-Zionist public.
And yet, this partnership is steadily unfolding before our very eyes. The same core challenge to our assumptions about how minorities vote, and "should" vote, was evident in the 2020 elections in America too.
The 2021 elections are going to mark a revolution in Arab-Jewish relations in the State of Israel. After years of Arab parties antagonistic to the state, of Arab political leaders actually cooperating with terror organizations, the 1.8 million-strong Arab public in Israel, 21 percent of the population, are beginning to choose parties that give them a sense of belonging in return for their vote.
This partnership reflects the tectonic shift in world politics in our times. The media, academics, pollsters and analysts, who were all incapable of foreseeing the rise of Trump, Brexit, and the 36 seats won by Netanyahu in the last elections, now shut their eyes from seeing this movement, too.
They are still captive to the old notions that minorities automatically identify with the Left, that they are umbilically bound to theories of multiculturalism and globalization, and are inherently repelled by the Right and its commitments to family, community and nation.
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However, the world is changing. From Brexit Britain to Trump 2016, the public, which was supposed to thrive on globalization and benefit from the weakening of states and from the opening of borders, turned its back on the intellectual elites pushing those ideological positions and turned towards national identity.
As it turns out, nationalist sentiments are not offensive to minorities either. Quite the contrary! They work for them, too. A strong country is the first precondition for everyone’s success, including the minorities and the poor. Only a healthy, successful, and prosperous nation that is effectively managed can enrich its citizens. Weak countries, ruled by detached academic elites, simply cannot succeed.
Received opinion banged on about Trump being a racist anti-Semite who hates Blacks, Mexicans and Latinos. True, U.S. minorities voted for the Democratic Party. But after four years of campaigning, a larger number of them voted for Trump.
In 2016, 6 percent of all Trump voters were Black. That went up to between 8-12 percent this time around. In Florida, voters of Cuban and Venezuelan descent have long trended GOP, but Trump’s vote share still increased. In the Miami Dade county, Trump won 46 percent of the vote in 2020, compared to 33 percent in 2016. And there was a shock rise in Trump support among Latinos on the Texas-Mexico border, and among Vietnamese in Los Angeles suburbs.
Those from minorities who voted for Trump didn't believe the GOP-as-party-of-hate story. Because voters themselves have rejected the thesis and changed the story.
The same false, brutal campaigns are being conducted in Israel against Benjamin Netanyahu. He is called a racist, that he hates Arabs, that he fearmongered about their getting out the vote in 2015, when on election day he declared that "The Arabs are flocking to the polls." The truth, as it now clearly transpires, is quite the opposite.
Netanyahu believes in prosperity, in genuine peace, in safety (establishing nine new police stations in Arab communities) and in investing money in the Arab sector – in which he led an investment of 15 billion NIS, an initiative that has not been taken by any preceding Israeli leader. The integration of the Arab sector into the Israeli economy has considerable potential for each person’s success as well as the GDP.
In contrast, the Israeli left offers Israeli Arabs despair, resentment, whining, and dependence. The Likud provides hope for real integration rather than a blame game that has so far led Israel’s Arab citizens nowhere.
The Left has sanctified the Oslo process and created a fictitious symmetry between the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. This thinking deadlocked all of us – Israel, the Palestinians, the Israeli Arabs, and as a matter of fact, the whole region.
Netanyahu offers Israeli Arabs a different vision. Instead of courting Abu Mazen, Netanyahu has built bridges of peace with Arab countries, thus proving once and for all that peace and prosperity can be achieved regardless of the Palestinians’ unsubstantiated, dangerous political demands.
The Abraham Accords have established an unconditional peace for the sons of Abraham. A true peace that could only be achieved by a strong Israel, not one that has fallen prey to its enemies by yielding land to Palestinian terror organizations, as has been Israel’s past disastrous experience.
The false paradigms that Netanyahu broke in the region have left their mark on Israeli Arabs, too. We will see political changes already in the March elections, and these changes will accumulate, strengthen and accelerate in subsequent elections.
The Joint List is the coalition that claims to represent Israel’s Arab citizens. But its discourse on international law, the Palestinians, and the UN is becoming irrelevant. The Likud's narrative of power, prosperity and security is the one that will count.
In Israel, as in other advanced Western states, minorities are starting to emerge from the grip of the left-wing elite that has never really cared for them or their advancement. What we are seeing now is just the beginning.
Srulik Einhorn is the founder of perception.media, a strategic consultant and creative director to leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic. Twitter: @SrulikEinhorn