Netanyahu all set to win Israel’s ‘right vs right’ election

The Likud party-led coalition may now have a free hand in executing its election promises, including annexing parts or whole of the West Bank

April 10, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Netanyahu ran an aggressive anti-Palestine and ant-Arab campaign

A harsh anti-Palestine and anti-Arab campaign seems to have yielded benefits for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he is likely to win a fourth consecutive term as prime minister. With 97% of the results announced, Netanyahu’s Likud party is likely to win 35 seats. The Blue and White Alliance, led by former general Benny Gantz, may win 35 seats too but Netanyahu is expected to form the government with the support of his right-wing allies. Netanyahu won despite his likely indictment in three corruption cases.

The right-wing alliance is expected to get at least 65 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Among these parties may be Yisrael Beiteinu, led by former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman. Yisrael Beiteinu has already declared that it would support the government only if there was an assurance of a “proper fight against terrorism.” Avigdor Lieberman resigned from Netanyahu’s earlier government after the latter agreed to a truce with Hamas. The once powerful Labour Party has been reduced to six seats.

Thousands of votes still remain to be counted, mainly those of soldiers, diplomats, representatives of Zionist organizations abroad etc. These votes might end up pushing the far-right wing Hayamin Hehadash of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked into the Knesset while pushing out the Ra’am-Balad party, which represents Arab views. Israel has a proportional representation system.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, Palestinian lawyer and activist Diana Buttu, pointed out that this election was a ‘right wing vs right wing election’ as the parties of Netanyahu and Gantz had identical platforms. She added that it was clear long before the elections that the new government would be a right-wing one, and there was no left wing or center left in Israel anymore. “Only 15 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset are going to people who believe in equality for the Palestinians and ending the occupation. The rest of the 105 seats are going to people who don’t believe in equality or ending the occupation, who are in effect fascists,” she said.

Diana Buttu added that Netanyahu would probably stick to his campaign promise of making the illegal Jewish settlements part of Israel. She expressed the fear that the considering the stand of US president Donald Trump on issues such as the Golan Heights and the shifting of the US embassy to Jerusalem, Netanyahu and other Israeli right-wing and settler leaders would have a free hand in annexing parts or whole of the West Bank.  “The international community may do nothing to stop Israel,” she said

Ofer Neiman of Boycott from Within agreed that a Gantz-led government would not have been any different from the previous ones. He felt that Netanyahu may next seek a statement from Trump recognizing or ‘legalizing’ the settlements.

Netanyahu’s previous government was marked by a harsh escalation of violence against Palestinians, including the brutalities against the Great March of Return protesters and innumerable air strikes on Gaza.

A worrying feature of the elections was the stark decline in the percentage of Arab voters. Experts attribute the low turnout to disillusionment with the systemic racism practised by the the State of Israel, including such measures such as the ‘Nation-State Law’ which turns them into second-class citizens. Likud also placed observers with body cameras in as many as 1,200 polling booths located in Arab-dominated areas. Voter turnout among the Arab community may have come down to as much as 30% from 65% in the previous election.

Palestine Liberation Organisation general secretary Saeb Erakat said the Israelis has voted to preserve the status quo and had said no to peace and yes to occupation.