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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/18/15

The Militarists and Haters Win in Israeli Elections

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Reprinted from Tikkun

Benjamin Netanyahu Wins
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Winners: Netanyahu, AIPAC, US Republican Party, Sheldon Adelson (American Jewish billionaire funder of the right), Hamas, Islamic State, the right-wing Mullahs in Iran.

Losers: Israeli, World Jewry, the Palestinian people, the forces for peace and non-violence everywhere, the Palestinian Authority, the people of Iran, the people of the U.S.

According to Israeli newspapers reporting on the outcome of the Israeli election on Tuesday, Likud increased its lead in the next Knesset of 120 members. It will now hold 30 Knesset seats, compared to the Zionist Union (former Labor Party) with 24 seats. As the front runner, Netanyahu will be asked to create the government coalition.

The Joint List of Palestinian Israelis, the third-largest party, gets 14 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 11, Kulanu with 10, Habayit Hayehudi (ultra right) with eight, Shas with seven, United Torah Judaism with six, Yisrael Beiteinu (fascist right) with six, and Meretz (once the peace party) with four.

Though the Israeli president has said he will ask for a government of national unity, it will be unity around the policies which Netanyahu put out clearly in the last days of the election: No Palestinian state, no deal that would allow Iran to develop nuclear energy, no willingness to count Arab Israelis as "real Israelis" (Netanyahu went so far as to warn the Israeli public that they were in danger because Arab Israelis had formed a Joint List and might become a real force in the Knesset unless the Jewish Israelis rallied around Netanyahu's Likud party).

How can the right wing grow to so much power in an Israel filled with mostly decent human beings, some of whom have even been influenced by Judaism's teachings of love for neighbor and love for "the other," though of course most Israelis are secular?

The first culprit here is the Occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza which created intolerable conditions for the Palestinian people and led a handful of them to acts of terror. Do not forget that it was Labor Party governments that initiated the Occupation, and when in power in the past forty years failed to end it (even when they had the political cover to do so immediately after the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin at the hands of one of the supporters of the West Bank settlers -- this failure being the tragic legacy of the post-assassination government led by Shimon Peres who today is celebrated as a man of peace but failed miserably when he was in the position to actually end the Occupation).

Closely connected to that, and a major reason why so many Israelis tell themselves that they have no option but to be ruthlessly "tough" is the despicable and immoral way that Hamas has chosen to resist that occupation. We at Tikkun have repeatedly documented the human rights violations inherent in the Occupation and if you have doubts about that, go to read the reports of B'tselem: the Israeli Human Rights Organization. And we've carefully reviewed the ways that Netanyahu manipulated public opinion last Spring and Summer to create the false impression that Israel was in huge danger. Nevertheless, Hamas' decision to bomb Israeli cities last summer was not only an ethically hateful violation of human rights, targeting Israeli civilians, pushing millions to run into air raid shelters day after day for much of the summer, but it was also massive victory for right-wingers in Israel who were thereby able to justify Israel's massive assault on Gaza but also to recredit in the minds of many Israelis the most fearful vision of Jews being in danger of annihilation even though Israel is by far the strongest military force in the middle east and the only one with massive nuclear weapons.

Hamas has played a dirty game here, believing that Israel's extremists will ultimately cause Israel to lose the support of most of the countries of the world, and weaken Israel in the long run. Moreover, Netanyahu's explicit rejection of a Palestinian state gives Hamas the upper hand in its political battle with the Palestinian Authority which had agreed to the Obama/Kerry strategy of negotiations with Israel to create a Palestinian state. With that no longer an option, Hamas' commitment to replace Israel with a "one state solution" will seem the only remaining option to many Palestinians and hence increase Hamas' political power in any future Palestinian election.

For the same reason, most of the Islamic fundamentalist/. violent extremists will be rejoicing over the Israeli vote. It is in their interests to portray Israel as an evil state, and the racism and militarism that just got a new lease on life in Israel will help them make their case.

Republicans will have their stature elevated, having given Netanyahu a platform on which he could communicate the image of being "tough" and at the same time loved by the US Congress. Doing so almost certainly helped his status with a section of Israeli voters who two weeks before were not so sure about Netanyahu and who continue to deny to pollsters, but not to each other, that they were swayed by the Congress' support of Likud -- it's beneath their Zionist dignity to allow non-Jews to impact on their voting, but it did.

Conversely, being a militarist and racist state will not help win Israel any friends around the world, and in the not-too-long-run it will weaken Israel's support in the US both among Americans in general and in particular among young Jews. So count the real anti-Semites who want to see Israel undermined as a way of getting at all Jews as having been among the beneficiaries of the Netanyahu victory.

The biggest losers will be all those on the planet who yearn for a world based on social and economic justice, environmental sanity, peace and non-violence, and genuine caring for the peoples of the world. Those of us who talk about building a world based on love and caring will face the next five years with an Israel that scoffs at those ideas and spreads its cynicism to the rest of the world. Instead, Israel will be spouting a message of fear and championing the "Right Hand of God," i.e., the notion that force and violence are the only way to achieve safety and security. And while few Israelis want to be involved in another war, many want to get the US to do a proxy war on Iran for Israel, and that will be bad not only for the people of the Middle East but also for the many Americans who will lose their lives in such a war.

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Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and national chair of the Tikkun Community/ Network of Spiritual Progressives. People are invited to subscribe to Tikkun magazine or join the interfaith organization the Network of Spiritual Progressives-- "both of which can be done by (more...)
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