Israel’s far right seizes control

February 20, 2009

THE OUTCOME of the Israeli elections might be slightly confusing in terms of the overall upshot.

Politics in Israel have shifted hard rightward. The war on Gaza was popular and increased support for the right. On the campaign trail, the debate was "Did Israel pull out too soon?"--i.e., did Israel massacre and destroy enough Palestinians and their society.

It was largely expected that uber-hawk Benyamin Netenyahu's Likud Party would therefore win over the "centrist" Tzipi Livni's Kadima. Surprisingly, Kadima edged out Likud, winning 28 seats versus 27. But this only tells part of the story.

Kadima was founded by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a member of Likud. He's called a "centrist" because he supported George W. Bush's "Road Map to Peace," which was a diplomatic means by which Israel would further institute and continue to assert its hegemony over Palestine. Sharon is known the world over as a deeply racist, right-wing war criminal for everything from his leading the massacre of 69 civilians in the West Bank in 1953, to the slaughter of over a thousand in at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps of Beirut in 1982, to ongoing war-mongering and expansionism.

One must take with more than a grain of salt the notion that Kadima is "moderate," as this could only be accurate relative to the nearly fascist status quo of Israeli politics.

Kadima won 28 seats in the recent elections. But in 2006, it had 29. There's no doubt that the party is in relative decline. In a historic upset, Avigdor Lieberman's far-right Israel Beiteinu, which has been openly advocating Arab transfer and mandatory loyalty oath to Israel, won 15 seats, more than the traditionally dominant and "moderate" Labor Party, which won 13. Shas, a deeply reactionary ultra-orthodox party won 11 seats.

There's no question that, overall, the right came out on top in the election. As one Kadima official put it, "We won the battle, but lost the war."

The prime minister of Israel is not elected, but selected by the president, a largely figurehead-type position meant to symbolize "national unity," who in this case is Shimon Peres--another long-time war criminal and now Kadima party member. The likely candidates for prime minister (Livni and Netanyahu) are in a scramble to wheel and deal toward forming a coalition of over 60 members of parliament in the 120-seat Knesset.

Despite Livni's victorious bluster following the election results, it's broadly understood that Kadima has almost no chance to get the prime minister spot. Unless she outright concedes to a Netanyahu-led government, which she's postured against doing, Likud will do everything possible shore up its allies on the far right, attempting to knit together Israel Beiteinu with Shas and United Torah, which have been political enemies due to opposing positions on religion, despite their broad agreement in attitude towards Palestinians.

Even if Livni does concede to Netanyahu in a move to score her party key portfolios such as Foreign Affairs or Defense, the triumph of the right is a fait accompli. Already off the planet, the prospects for a "viable" two-state settlement recede ever further out of orbit.
Tom Arabia, Boston

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