Analysis

Election Results: The Tribe Has Spoken. We Must Respect Its Say – and Start a New One

Israel is a right-wing country, where racism is politically correct and personal corruption is irrelevant. When generals fresh from the army are the alternative, there is none. We must hope a true Jewish-Arab partnership will emerge

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid investigations on corruption charges, August 17, 2019.
A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid investigations on corruption charges, August 17, 2019.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

UPDATE: Israel election results: Netanyahu two seats away from majority with 90 percent of votes counted

You can be disgusted, you can be fearful, you can even be shocked, but you can’t deny his incredible talent: Benjamin Netanyahu the wizard struck again. Now he’s also an alchemist – take a serious indictment, scatter incitement, and win the admiration of the masses. You can be contemptuous, you can denounce it, you can even rise up against the nation that voted that way, but you have to respect its choice. To bow your head. It’s the will of the people. The people want Netanyahu.

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Bibi went gunning for his only real rivalCredit: Haaretz Weekly Ep. 66

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The time has come to recognize that fact: Israel is right-wing, hard right. Racism is politically correct, personal corruption makes no difference, as long as you guarantee the continuation of Jewish supremacy, rule over another nation, arrogance and hatred. Peace, equality and justice are for the weak. Not for most Israelis. They said it loud and clear on Monday, more decisively than in the two previous election campaigns: Netanyahu is our king. Netanyahu is the king of most Israelis.

And on the opposite side, alas, on the opposite side – nothing. To the left of Netanyahu, absolute emptiness. An arid desert. Netanyahu deserves praise, but we cannot ignore the fact that opposite him stood an empty gate. An ideological void, a dearth of charisma. There is no left and no center in Israel, only an original right, and a right that is a cheap imitation. The people preferred the original. In Great Britain, there is a left. Even in the United States, there is still a left – but in Israel, the furthest left is the center, which is also close to inexistent.

Likud supporters celebrate their party's victory after exit polls show a clear lead in Israel's 2020 election, March 2, 2020.
Likud supporters celebrate their party's victory after exit polls show a clear lead in Israel's 2020 election, March 2, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid earned their defeat. It’s very hard to hide the schadenfreude. That’s what happens when you don’t say anything. When you don’t dare to do anything different, only offer all of the same. Kahol Lavan was punished yesterday, deservedly, because the whole party stuttered, not its leader. In favor of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan, like Netanyahu. In favor of an attack on Gaza, like Netanyahu. In favor of the Gaza blockade, like Netanyahu. In favor of disqualifying Joint List candidate Heba Yazbak, in favor of annexing the Jordan Valley with international agreement. Did you think you would succeed in fooling anyone that way? You failed.

A gang of good old boys and playboys does not an opposition make. It pats itself on the back, it throws smiles around, it’s very charming, but when you have nothing to offer, voters won't give you their vote. When the political tone is dictated by a far-right faction, like Moshe Ya’alon, Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, even talking about a center becomes absurd. When generals who have just doffed their uniforms but not their way of thinking are the alternative to the right – there isn’t really an alternative.

The left-wing Emet list (Labor-Gesher and Meretz) was also sanctioned, and it deserved it just as much. Meretz was swallowed up by Labor as though it never existed, accepting a former member of ultranationalist party Yisrael Beitenu as one of its leaders – what is this outfit? What was it supposed to be? A nationalist party, a 'pure' party, which also wants to be called leftist? Here too voters had their say: Mixers and cocktails are for bars, not for a determined struggle against the religious and far-right that has taken over the country.

There’s no cloud without a silver lining. If those are the results, we have to hope that the defeat will be sufficiently clear and unequivocal. That’s the only way that it will finally be possible to start building a different opposition. A left-wing opposition, for a change. A Jewish-Arab opposition, for a change. A genuine, courageous and clear left, with fewer generals. We’ve seen them.

They didn't dare make clear statements, fearing it would alienate voters. But it turns out the electorate would actually like to hear clear, new, perhaps even subversive things. Give it a shot, try something new! But for that you need courage, which is the rarest commodity in Israeli politics, even rarer perhaps than integrity. The majority had its say on Monday. Now we have to establish a new tribe to oppose it.

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