Israelis Who Hoped for Peace Progress Should Expect to Be Disappointed

Leaving the Habayit Hayehudi party out of the government won't create a pro-peace government, because Likud-Beiteinu isn't much different.

Adrian Daniels
Adrian Daniels
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Adrian Daniels
Adrian Daniels

To the same degree that the campaign itself was lifeless and predictable, the results of Israel's general election have invigorated and excited Israel's center and Zionist Left. While only a few months ago, our connected and well-informed political pundits were lamenting/celebrating Israel's inexorable move rightwards and asserting that the only question remained how large the landslide would be, the results seem to have recalibrated everyone's understanding of what kind of place Israelis want this country to be. Nevertheless, for all its reinvigoration, middle-Israel, which we now know is prepared to give peace a chance, should prepare to be disappointed.

The results certainly surprised, but we are now being told by the same political "punditerati" with equal assuredness that there are two viable alternatives to the new government – a draft-the-Haredim government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi party leader Naftali Bennett at its core, or a peace-process government, replacing Bennett with the Shas party. In the same breath, we are told that Lapid is considering taking the post of foreign minster (as prestigious as finance minister, but theoretically without the potential for serving as his political graveyard). If this is in fact the political calculus that is going on behind the closed doors of those who will form our next government, then I think somehow, somewhere, something got lost.

The peace-process-government alternative assumes that the central party of any new coalition, Likud-Beitenu, is at its core a moderate conservative government that just needs the right partners to prod it gently back to the center. But this is a fallacy. The Likud Party is the party of the settler movement, which several years ago decided on a strategy of infiltration. Most members joined the party to vote in the primaries, even though they would never vote Likud in the general election (effectively giving them two votes for the Knesset – note to reader: In this election, Likud Beitenu picked up only one seat over the Green Line, and in many settlements with significant Likud membership, not one vote was cast for the party).

They became the most active and vocal Likud members, incessantly harassing and browbeating Likud MKs, and finally in the recent Likud primaries, entirely dictating the realistic spots on the Likud list – ousting anyone one who failed not just to support the Settler movement but to carry out its instructions to the letter. Hence Dan Meridor, Mickey Eitan and Benny Begin (whose only crime after years of impeccable service, was to broker a compromise with the residents of the illegal settlement of Migron – where any form of "territorial compromise" is a cardinal sin in the eyes of the ideologues), were effectively pushed off the Likud list. Those looking for the traditional hawkish, conservative but pragmatic voices of the Likud on the current list will have a hard time finding them.

If anyone who voted for Yesh Atid did so in the hope that it would somehow bring the government back to meaningful talks with the Palestinians and end its pandering to the radical right, they are likely to be very disappointed. On that issue, there is no daylight between the position of most of the Likud-Beiteinu MKs of the 19th Knesset and the MKs of Habayit Hayehudi.

Any government with Likud-Beiteinu, whether or not it includes Habayit Hayehudi, will be going nowhere on the peace process, and any attempt by Bibi to take even half-meaningful steps towards resuming talks with the Palestinians will result in the splitting of his party quicker than the fire-bombing of a mosque follows a stone-throwing in the West Bank. Indeed, Bibi knows that any move in the diplomatic sphere will come with a high price tag. If Lapid is looking for a ministerial role that will maintain his upward political trajectory, he would do well to leave the foreign ministry to someone for whom public rejection by the world's leaders is an electoral bonus.

Adrian Daniels is a partner at the law firm of Yigal Arnon & Co.

It's the same people behind Likud-Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi these days.Credit: Emil Salman

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