The Day After

Israeli Knesset (parliament) elections

Today I’m ashamed.

Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state would not be born under his leadership. Election Day, the Prime Minister of this democratic nation warned that “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls” so it was imperative for people to gather their friends and family to go vote for Likud. Imagine the prime minister of any other country cautioning his constituents that “black voters are coming out in droves to the polls.” What’s even more despicable than Netanyahu’s statement and his disavowal of ever supporting a Palestinian state is that it seems to have driven hundreds of thousands of voters in his direction. On Friday, Netanyahu’s Likud was polling at around 20 seats and less than a week later, come Tuesday’s election, he gained 10 seats – totaling 30 for his right-wing Likud party and effectively securing his reelection.

Today I’m amazed.

A week ago Likud was crumbling. Some projected that they would win less than 20 seats in the Knesset. The momentum was very clearly with Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni’s Zionist Union party. Netanyahu pulled off an undeniably stunning victory by going from 4 seat down in the polls last Friday, to being tied during the first exit polls on election day, to being 6 seats up by this morning. Netanyahu is sly and cunning and willing to say anything to keep his job – making him one hell of a politician.

Today I’m relieved.

The silver lining of this utterly gloomy cloud is that the racist and homophobic Yahad party didn’t receive enough votes to gain seats in the next Knesset. That’s not to say that other racist and homophobic parties didn’t make it in, but it is a consolation that the worst of the worst will be watching from the sidelines.

Today I’m disappointed.

I happened to see Herzog pay a visit to the Western Wall on Sunday and I truly believed that I was laying eyes on the next Prime Minister of Israel. Herzog at the helm wouldn’t have been able to stop the occupation tomorrow and it wouldn’t have been able to guarantee a stop to rockets from Gaza. However, I’m confident that he could have thawed relations with Washington and could have stopped settlement growth outside the blocs and could have presented a more viable socioeconomic plan for a society where the poverty rates are far too high. Herzog was a step in the right direction. Netanyahu is two steps back.

Today, I’m scared for tomorrow.

This morning senior Palestinian officials said that due to Netanyahu’s lack of support of a Palestinian state, Israel is not a partner for peace. I absolutely agree with them. Now, the Palestinian internationalization bid (a process of which I initially was skeptical, but now support) will continue full steam ahead, with the Palestinians seeking recognition at the UN and suing Israel for war crimes at the ICC. At the outset of the internationalization move a few months ago, Israel responded by withholding tax money from the Palestinian Authority. With no change in Israeli leadership and the Palestinians motivated by the election results to intensify their bid, the likelihood of the funds being released are slim. If Israel continues to withhold these funds, the PA’s security won’t get paid and they’ll eventually stop coming in to work. In that event, a third intifada is closer than we think. The Palestinian internationalization bid will likely cause things to get worse before they get better, but after yesterday’s elections one must ask what other choice do the Palestinians have?

The EU, the UN and the US will not take lightly Netanyahu’s disavowal of support for a Palestinian state either, and the coming months will be diplomatically trying for Israel, especially if Netanyahu builds a narrow, right wing coalition. Sanctions and international isolation are a few of the things Israel has to look forward to now that the electorate has chosen to continue down King Bibi’s path.

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