Opinion |

The Hollow Joke That Is Israel's Supposedly Deeply Divided Political Arena

Habayit Hayehudi, Israel Beiteinu, Kulanu, Shas, Yesh Atid, Zionist Union, the new list currently being proposed - are all just nuanced versions of the same thing.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

Unconnected to the situation or the political schedule, Israel has suddenly been attacked by an electoral hysteria. Less of a real event and more an uncontrolled spasm. Polls and election results forecasts, gossip about new parties, commentators in the television studios putting together and taking apart governments.

This is an insipid and empty business, and not just because of the fact that the present government coalition is rather stable and even expected to pass a two-year budget soon. The fundamental, deep vacuousness stems from the fact that there is no reason to hold elections today in Israel. Unless we think about politics as a football league, in which every team has a home stadium, devoted fans and different colored shirts – but all of them are playing the same game.

The dominant working cliché is that Israel is divided into tribes fighting one another until the blood flows. A divided, conflicted, hate-filled society without a common denominator. Many attribute the blame to the Netanyahu era. That may be quite true on sociological level, but it has no political validity. Here the reality is completely different, in fact the opposite may be true.

Without a doubt the present prime minister is doing the best he can to divide Israelis and set them against each other. And it is working not badly at all. The divide-and-rule method is the basis for “governability” and “governmental stability,” both of which are nice slogans that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regularly recites. Yet to say that the map of Israeli political parties represents a multiplicity of opinions and variations is a hollow joke. The picture is terrifyingly homogenous. Behind the smokescreen and white noise, Israel is beginning to resemble those democracies on paper only that are ruled by one huge governing party; for the ease of discussion we will call it World Likud.

When the latest public opinion polls forecast Likud “weakening,” it means the narrow Likud – that led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Miri Regev, which depends on MKs Anat Berko and David Bitan, is embroidered with Benny Begin and bounded on the bottom by Oren Hazan and its new member, “The Shadow.” But who is really battling alongside this same official Likud for voters? The “Likud Hayehudi,” headed by Naftali Bennett. The “Likud Beiteinu” party led by Avigdor Lieberman. The “Kulanu Likud” party headed by Moshe Kahlon. The “Shas with the Likud” party of Arye Dery. And now the talk is of establishing a new party, the “Real Likud,” or the “Old Likud,” where such people as Moshe Ya’alon and Gideon Sa’ar will find their natural place. For some reason it is called for now “Likud 2,” even though in the best case it will really be “Likud 6.”

It doesn’t end here, either. Yair Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, is competing for the title “Likud 7.” The recent surveys have forecast 24 or 27 Knesset seats for this party. For now we can call it “Yesh Likud” or “Likud Atid.”

Since the last elections, Lapid has taken care to base his platform on the holy trinity that never disappoints; the one that brought Menachem Begin, and Netanyahu too, to power before him: the Holocaust, religion and the military. There is no difference between Lapid and them, not here and not in their babbling on about terrorism, love of Israel and the various affairs.

As long as Isaac Herzog does not budge from his position, the “Likud 8,” which can be called the “Zionist Likud,” is on its last legs too. While Labor and Yesh Atid voters may not be Likudniks, their parties in their present forms are only promoting alternatives in personnel to Netanyahu – and not to his path. As reality has already proven, they are also natural partners for his government. Which makes them at best the “moderate” or allegedly sane wing of the bloc made up of eight parties, where the differences between them are mostly semantic and cosmetic.

All these parties support the occupation and settlement enterprise, or are too scared to act against their continued existence. All will enlist to support the next war, any war. All flow with the surrender to nationalism (“Zionism”), the descent into religiosity (“Judaism”), and the sucking up to the consensus (“unity”). Status quo parties in the present Knesset hold 96 seats. Does it really matter how they will divide this up in the next election?

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