Israel’s elections herald a long siesta

by Daphna Whitmore

The long years of Netanyahu’s reign are drawing to an end. For years he has epitomized reactionary zionism as he oversaw hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers seize land in the West Bank. There are now 700,000 settlers, putting an end to the myth that Israel was serious about a two state solution.

The center-left has always portrayed Netanyahu as an obstacle to peace, so does the end of his leadership signal a new direction for Israel? According to Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy the election results show no such thing.  He argues that the election reveals “Israel is one big center, with far fewer differences of opinion than one would think.”

Despite the likelihood of a change of government, Levy sees this as more of the same. While Netanyahu divided the two camps of far right and far left, Israelis are firmly in the middle and the differences between Netanyahu’s Likud and Kahol Lavan which leads the polls are “minuscule, hardly visible to the naked eye.”

Levy points out “We’re all one nation: Not a polarized society, not torn and not split, as people lament here day and night, but a big consensus, far broader and deeper than we thought. And that isn’t good news at all.”

According to Levy, the land grabs by Israel won’t stop: “One could think that there is an ideological abyss between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz. We had two golden opportunities in recent days to learn that this is not the case. Netanyahu proposed the annexation of strategic parts of the West Bank, and Gantz said that Netanyahu wouldn’t keep his promise, while he, Gantz, would remain in the Jordan Valley forever.”

Gantz and Netanyahu 2012

What isn’t acceptable to Israelis is blatant racism says Levy. “Israelis want racism, but in small doses, and under the table, not front and center. After Tuesday, it’s impossible to claim that Israel went to the right. It certainly did not go to the left. It went to sleep.”

The only notable difference is the increase in the number of Arab representatives.  The Palestinian and Arab parties ran a Joint List and won 13 seats. This will be the third largest party in the parliament. It is likely the party’s chairman Ayman Odeh will be leader of the parliamentary opposition.

As for the vast majority of Israelis Levy doesn’t sound optimistic: “The election once again proved that those who propose change have no chance in Israel. Except for an up or down, in and out referendum on Netanyahu, Israelis don’t want any change. They’re happy with what they have, and mainly with what they are fleeing from. Just give them their vacations and their shopping malls.”