Reprinted from To The Point Analyses
At first glance the campaigning suggested that most Israelis were focused on economics. This would not be unusual. Just about all democratic elections are fought over bread and butter issues, and Israel has evolved into a society that is harshly divided between haves and have-nots. However, as it turned out, this campaign theme could not have been of primary importance. This is so because the man who symbolizes the dysfunctional economic status quo, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi), actually won the election. Indeed his hard-right Likud Party improved its position in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, from 19 to 30 seats. Obviously, something else was motivating the Israeli voter. What was it?
The answer to that question is fear -- or, in Israeli terms, the issue of security. Netanyahu stoked this fear with warnings of a massive Arab Israeli turnout and other examples of racist-tinged propaganda, and this led many Israeli Jews to decide, in the privacy of the voting booth, that they were more afraid of Palestinians than of poverty. At the same time most of these voters refused to face the fact that much of this fear is self-induced. Israel has evolved into one of the most racist countries on earth and at the heart of its racism is the ideologically driven desire for a state reserved primarily for Jews. To accomplish this, Israel as a nation has dispossessed and oppressed the Palestinians. This practice has prevailed for so long that 60 percent of Israeli Jews cannot envision an end to the resulting struggle. So fear of Palestinian resistance, with its implied threat of destruction, or at least transformation, of the Jewish state has always been their ultimate security issue.
It would seem that concern over security and its attendant fear caused enough Israelis, who would have otherwise voted their pocketbooks, to vote instead for the "no Palestinian state on my watch," free-marketeer Bibi Netanyahu. And that allowed his Likud Party to win.
Part II -- Consequences for the Israeli People
Given that so many Israeli Jews voted for Netanyahu's Likud Party or one of the parties allied to it, what can they look for as a result? Well, they can hope against hope for their longed-for security. However, objectively speaking, this expectation is foolhardy. This will be Netanyahu's fourth term as prime minister and Israel is still the least safe place on the planet for Jews. In addition, thanks to Netanyahu's policies, life for Jews outside of Israel is less, rather than more, secure. In other words, those who voted for Likud or its allies looking for security seriously misjudged the situation. Indeed, they seem to be unable to understand what is really required for Israel's security -- namely, a just peace with the Palestinians -- or how Netanyahu has already and soon will further negatively impact this issue.
Also, Netanyahu has adopted positions and policies which, if pressed forward (as they now surely will be), can only rebound negatively on Israel in the international arena. These positions and policies include Netanyahu's refusal to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians, his now open rejection of a Palestinian state (despite his cynical post-election reversal on this point), the speeding up of illegal settlement activity, ever more violent oppressive occupation, theft of Palestinian tax revenue, and the utter impoverishment of the Gaza Strip. Over time these policies have upset most of the governments of the Western world (an exception being the U.S. Congress), and that feeling may now grow and make more likely stronger reactions both from the Europeans, the United Nations, and the White House as well.