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Israel's November Election: A Last-ditch Battle for Democracy

Zehava Galon
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Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, at a Home Front Command conference in April.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, at a Home Front Command conference in April.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Zehava Galon

On November 1, we’ll go to the polls for the fifth time in four years. Crucial elections. At the moment, Israel has a liberal camp that is fighting to preserve the status quo, and a reactionary-revolutionary camp that is trying to shake up the entire political reality. The reactionaries prefer to call themselves conservatives, because that’s a respectable name, but there’s nothing conservative about what they want: They want to erase 60 years of progress.

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Over the past 15 years, former Prime Minister MK Benjamin Netanyahu has gathered around him organizations and people who call themselves “conservative” – the Kohelet Forum, Im Tirtzu and others – who want to fundamentally change Israel. The Kohelet Forum is trying to import concepts to Israel, through the money of an oligarch who participated in the January 6 insurrection in the United States.

The goals of these concepts are the advancement of Jewish superiority, a traditional social order and pushing minorities and women back to the 1950s.

The reason is simple: The reactionary camp wants, first and foremost, to complete the occupation of the West Bank and drive out the Palestinians by making their lives insufferable. The reactionary camp has established welfare-state settlements using Israeli public money; at the same time, it is fighting to prevent a welfare state in Israel.

The problem of the reactionaries is that there are still forces in Israel that oppose the apartheid regime that it has established in the settlements. They perceive the courts, which here and there stop the takeover of private Palestinian land, as a special problem. The courts and what is left of the liberal camp in Israel is the real enemy: They delay, sometimes, the spread of the occupation and dare to inculcate in Israel values not based on hatred.

And so the reactionary camp needs to vanquish the liberals. Our reactionaries need to achieve crushing victories in order to implement against us the same method they use against the Palestinians: despair. Netanyahu is probably not reactionary to that extent, but it doesn’t matter. Likud, which was once a liberal movement, has been subjected to a hostile takeover by reactionaries.

If Netanyahu manages to get elected again, he will be dependent on the reactionaries. Because he has no real commitment to anything, except evading justice, and because he wants to take revenge on the liberal camp for distancing him from the leadership of the government, in the next Knesset – if he wins – he will persecute anyone who is not a reactionary.

The success of the reactionaries in the United States on the issue of abortion will lead to attempts to emulate it in Israel. Our religious libertarianism is copy-pasted from the United States, led by American reactionaries. This will lead to the selection of judges by the Knesset, so the judges will be “theirs,” and they will fill the government with ultra-right conservatives to pass laws that will change the regime and strengthen the occupation.

The model will be Ayelet Shaked. Think about a whole government with Shaked clones. Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman has already promised that what reactionaries in the United States took 50 years to accomplish, he and his colleagues will do in less time.

But it is still in our hands. They are still a minority. On November 1, our last-ditch battle for democracy will take place. It has never been a sterling example of liberal democracy. Defective, shaky, tending toward authoritarianism, but still, democracy. No one dare be absent.

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