Israel’s elections will have sharp global consequences
Since the late 1970s, Israeli society has been moving steadily to the right in three main trajectories: greater reliance on military force as a primary foreign policy tool; more policy making and social influence by religious Jews; and a growing nationalist commitment to a greater Israel concept that includes building new settlements and preventing the birth of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
The victory of a coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tuesday’s general elections continued the militant and predatory Zionist trends of the past 45 years, but this will only refocus many people’s attention on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the wider Arab-Israeli conflict that it has spawned since 1948.
This is because the right-wing militant coalition Netanyahu leads will push militant Zionist policies towards the Palestinians to such a degree of extreme and criminal colonialism that the passive reactions in recent years of most Palestinians and Arabs will not be able to persist.
The Netanyahu coalition’s policies will usher in a period of heightened tensions between Israel and every one of its regional and global interlocutors, especially Palestinians, other Arabs, Turks, Iranians, Europeans and the US government.
The only exception will be that small band of right-wing zealots and pro-Israel lobbyists in the US who often put rightist Israeli views above US interests.
The new Netanyahu-led right-wing government confirms what many have been saying for decades: there is no serious chance of achieving a negotiated two-state resolution.
The Palestine and Arab-Israeli conflicts were hardly mentioned in the electoral campaigns, which focused more heavily on the right’s supernationalist determination to continue colonising all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Perpetual stalemate and Arab quiescence in the context of continued Zionist colonialism and militarism are not a realistic option, especially when some among the Israeli right are trying to limit the voting and civil rights of those million or so Palestinians who are Israeli citizens.
We should expect tensions to rise with democratising Arab neighbours whose governments will more faithfully reflect Arab public opinion.
The Israeli response is likely to be to continue building walls to isolate Israel, but the lessons from Lebanon and Gaza over the past several decades are that determined resistance groups find a way to go above or below the walls to engage Israel in battle if need be.
Foreign governments are likely to publicly criticise and pressure Israel more.
Symbolic and rhetorical moves are likely on this front, but they will add to the isolation Israel will feel.
Palestinians themselves in Israel, the occupied territories and neighbouring Arab countries will take the right wing’s re-election as a cue to explore more dynamic resistance policies, probably using nonviolent civil disobedience and legal challenges as main options.
Many people and organisations among Israel’s principal political partners – Palestinians, other Arabs, Europeans and Americans – will also likely react to Netanyahu’s continued extremism and criminal expansion of settlements by increasing the intensity of the expanding “boycott, divestment and sanctions” initiative that seeks to equate Israeli policies with the legacy of the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
Most of the world will continue to react negatively to Netanyahu’s victory – unless he proves to be a Mikhail Gorbachev or an FW de Klerk figure and acknowledges his policies are doomed, and need a historic reversal and comes to terms with the twin facts of reality and justice.
– Distributed by Agence Global
» Khouri is director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon