Before a single vote is cast in Israel’s second national election this year, two disturbing facts are clear: The outcome will be as muddled as it was after the April contest and whoever wins, despite the permanent state of denial in which Western liberals find themselves, Israel/Palestine has become one state – an Apartheid state.
Following April’s election, unable to form a governing coalition of 61 Knesset members, Netanyahu called for a new election, hoping to improve his prospects. During the past five months, he pulled out all the stops. He bombed three countries – Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He announced that if he wins this new contest, he will annex the Jordan Valley in addition to settlements and outposts spread throughout the West Bank. He accelerated his incitement against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. And he coerced members of his own party to pledge support for his immunity from prosecution for the multiple corruption charges he is currently facing.
Even with all of this, polls are showing that Netanyahu and his coalition partners will fare no better than they did in April. In fact, it appears that neither Netanyahu’s coalition nor the main opposition to his continued rule have moved beyond the numbers they had in April. The only significant growth appears to be among the ultra-religious and the right-wing secular nationalists. While Netanyahu might like to bring them both into his government, thus giving him in excess of a majority, the secular nationalists are ideologically opposed to the ultra-religious and will not join a government that includes them. At the same time, some of the opposition might be inclined to join a government with Netanyahu’s Likud Party, but at a steep price – namely, that he step down as head of the coalition. Since he is desperate to remain in power to avoid prosecution and humiliation, it is unlikely he will accept. This is precisely why he insisted that his party members pledge loyalty before the election.
What’s clear is that regardless of who wins – if, in fact, anyone does – there will be no change in the reality faced by Palestinians. There will be no end of the occupation and no two-state solution.
The hope to which liberals have clung that in the post-Netanyahu era Israel will be different is, at best, an illusion. The only change one might see in a Blue and White-led Israel is an easing of the hold the Orthodox Rabbinate have over aspects of social and religious life in the country. But as far as ending the occupation and meeting the minimum Palestinian requirements for an independent state – neither Netanyahu nor the Blue and White have any interest in moving forward towards that goal.
This is the Israel that Netanyahu and the Likud have built. Since the late 1970s when they first came to power, the Likud embarked on a settlement programme that, in their words, would make a Palestinian state an impossibility. After Oslo, they incited against the agreement, the Labour Party that signed it, and the Palestinians. Their efforts led to anti-peace legislation passed by the Republican-led US Congress, the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, and the 1996 election of Netanyahu on a platform of ending the peace process.
For the first 25 years following the 1967 War, liberals were silent in the face of the brutality of the Israeli occupation. During all this time, as Israel dug deep roots into the territories, no effective voices were raised in opposition to their practices. By now it’s too late – the hole Israel dug is too deep.
Given this, the liberal lament over the “potential demise of the two-state solution” isn’t a laughable illusion. They remain more concerned with preserving the Jewish character of Israel than they are with the decades of suffering of the Palestinians. Both Netanyahu and Blue and White know that they can claim sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, continue to strangle Gaza, expand settlements in the West Bank and “Greater Jerusalem” and nothing will happen.
It is for these reasons that this new Israeli election will decide nothing – not for Israel, nor for the Palestinians.