Saturday, November 05, 2022

Israel is in for an ugly few years

There is an excellent article in this weekend's Globe and Mail by Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. It gives a good, and I think reasonably objective (insofar as that is even possible in the fractured politics of modern Israel) glimpse into the state of Israel in the wake of Benjamin Yetanyahu's recent re-election.

In the fifth general election in 4 years, Israel was once again voting on the leadership of Netanyahu, despite the ongoing court cases against him. This time, after some pretty nasty and at times violent campaigning, he succeeded, albeit with the support of some pretty unsavoury ultra-right wing extremist parties like the Religious Zionism party, which openly seeks to erode democratic institutions and foment discord between Jews and Arabs. With the help of these ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties, Netanyahu hopes to pass a law prohibiting the prosecution of a sitting Prime Minister, his best chance at avoiding criminal prosecution on charges of corruption.

In this election, Yetanyahu managed to beat back the outgoing coalition of the Yesh Atid party and the National Unity party, parties that Netayahu tried to portray as extreme left-wing parties, although the truth is that they are closer to centre and centre-right respectively (Israel's politics is notoriously right-wing in general, and almost all parties are deeply nationalistic). That coalition also included the tiny Islamist Ra'am party, the first time in Israel's history that an Arab party has been represented in government. So, the tantalizing glimpse of what Israel might look like as a more democratic and inclusive state has been cruelly cut short.

Under Netanyahu and his extreme-right buddies, then, Israel returns to a state where Arabs and Jews are mortal enemies, Israeli settlements spread ever further into the West Bank, and the Palestinian conflict spreads once more into Israel's streets. However, Yetanyahu, for all his failings, is no fool, and he will probably try to reign in his more extremist allies, mindful of his international reputation (such as it is). 

But it's probably going to be an ugly few years, certainly for Palestine, and also for anyone looking in from the outside.

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