More than 5.5 million Israelis will cast their votes Tuesday in what is widely viewed as a pivotal election that could decide the final outcome of the troubled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Most opinion polls forecast a comfortable victory for the so-called “national camp”, which encompasses a plethora of right-wing and extreme right-wing parties and electoral lists, some of which adopting a manifestly fascist approach towards the Palestinians languishing under military occupation for over 45 years.
Voters will elect 120 lawmakers comprising the Knesset, or Israeli parliament. Opinion polls preceding the elections gave the right, with its religious and secular wings, a massive advantage over the so-called left.
In Israel, political and ideological classifications are relative. For example, centre-left, or centrist parties, adopt political views that would be viewed as too nationalistic or even racist in a European context.
Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who heads an electoral list called “Hatnua” or “Movement”, advocates a two-state solution for resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. Nonetheless, she insists that in the context of such a solution, Israel would have the right, especially in the long run, to transfer, or expel, its Arab citizens (nearly two million) to the would-be Palestinian state. Thus a new Nakba, or Catastrophe (a reference to how Palestinians describe the dispossession of 1948), would be committed under the rubric of peace.
Generally speaking, most observers expect the real battle to be fought between the extreme and more extreme parties, which means the political right would get the lion’s share of the vote. In political terms, Israelis are expected to elect the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.
This government will be headed by current Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It suggests that the next Israeli government will be opposed to peace with the Palestinians more than any government prior.
The electoral list expected to take the largest single chunk of votes is the Likud-Israel Beitenu alliance, which according to most recent opinion polls will receive a minimum of 32 seats out of the 120-seat Knesset.
This would give list leader Netanyahu the legal right to form the next Israeli government, although it would require an arduous and prolonged process of political bargaining with potential coalition partners.
The Likud-Israel Beitenu projects itself as “nationalistically moderate” especially when compared with other Talmudic-minded parties on the right. However, a deeper look into the real ideological and political platform of the alliance reveals an inherently racist movement that rejects equality for Israel’s non-Jewish population.
More importantly, the Likud-Beitenu alliance rejects the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. It also considers Jerusalem the eternal and undivided capital of Israel. The alliance also vehemently rejects any notion of the repatriation of Palestinian refugees to their native towns and villages in Israel.
The Labour Party, which ruled Israel for nearly three decades, is expected to win 16-17 seats. The party, whose popularity and stature dwindled through the years, hopes to re-establish itself in a changing political environment.
Shas, the ultra fundamentalist party representing Jews from Islamic countries, is projected to win 10-11 seats. The party claims to be un-Zionist. But its religious mentor, Ovadia Yosef, has never flinched from joining Israeli governments whenever he deemed that expedient for his group.
Another Jewish but more Zionist party is Habayt Hayahudi, or Jewish Home, which is commanding the attention of many observers. The party is the settlers’ party par excellence and is expected to win 12-13 seats in the next Knesset.
The party has a decidedly fascist platform. It calls for the annexation of large parts of the West Bank following the formula “maximum land, minimum Arabs”.
The party advocates apartheid or expulsion for Palestinians. Its ideological and religious mentors argue that according to the Bible non-Jews living under Jewish religious law or halacha ought to be treated as “water carriers and wood hewers”.
Those refusing enslavement or apartheid would be expelled or exterminated.
In 2011, one of the party’s leaders, an American Jew named Jeremy Gimpel, advocated the destruction of the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem.
While speaking to a Christian Zionist crowd in Florida, Gimpel reportedly said: “It would be incredible if the Dome of the Rock is blown up and we laid the cornerstone of the Temple in Jerusalem.”
According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper, the clip, revealed first by the dovish Israeli website 972 magazine, shows Gimpel addressing a group of evangelical Zionists in Florida in November 2011.
In the clip Gimpel states: “Imagine today if the Golden Dome... I am being recorded so I can’t say blown up, but let us say was blown up, right, and we laid the cornerstone of the temple in Jerusalem. Can you imagine what that would be? None of you would be here. You would be going to Israel. It would be incredible.”
Gimpel claimed his remarks were made in jest, a claim not believed by those who know the mindset of the religious Zionist camp in Israel.
The vast majority of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are expected to vote for this party which advocates apartheid for non-Jews and absolutely rejects any form of territorial “concessions” to the Palestinians.
Interestingly, most of leaders of this party are American Jews who immigrated to Israel, people who are expected to have imbibed American values, such as First Amendment freedoms and liberties.
According to some Israeli commentators, Netanyahu might resort to forming a broad-based national unity government which would enable him to resist US pressure and maintain a semblance of a peace process if only to maintain the distorted status quo.
This week, an Israel writer opined that Netanyahu would only seek to maintain the peace process for the next four years. At that point, it is predicted, the on-the-ground realities, particularly in settlement building, would render any political solution moot.