After a storm there must be a calm

I don’t follow events in Israel in very closely, but when I discuss it with those who do, I mostly get the same feeling I get about the Catholic Church (and to some extent the Republican party): just as my grandmother is an apologist for whatever awful thing some Bishop has just done, while my sister and I want to see the Catholic Church disappear, I find that my older Jewish friends usually care about Israel and support whatever the government doing, whereas the younger ones generally are either disinterested or critical of the direction the country is going in.

For this reason, I’ve tended to believe Peter Beinart’s theory that Israel will eventually become a country of ultra-rightists and religious zealots, increasingly isolated from an America that no longer cares what goes on over there.

But the current election seems like a positive sign for Israeli politics, right? I thought that just a few weeks ago people were predicting a landslide win empowering the far right. Is this a return to sanity?

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56 replies
  1. 1
    Maude says:

    It should temper the extreme militaristic tendencies, I hope.

  2. 2
    PsiFighter37 says:

    Ultimately, though, Netanyahu will still be in charge. And of what little I do know about the election, it seems like the surprise centrist party that got seats did well because of domestic issues, not on issues of Palestinian statehood.

    And I didn’t hear anything about Kadima – did they win any seats? Imagine that…Kadima is dead, but Ariel Sharon is still alive. Who would’ve thunk it?

  3. 3
    the Conster says:

    Netanyahu bet everything on Romney red, and black came up. That had to hurt him.

  4. 4
    Jon says:

    i just don’t see anyway that this Knesset lasts very long. There will be another election in not too long. Then we can give verdicts. Bibi is either going to have to sell out to the haredim over the draft or make a more centrist based party, but that might split his coalition with the YB half of his party.

    You could have said the same thing about the US circa 2004, you know. But people like us didn’t give up. People in Israel haven’t all given up either.

    If the Catholic church were only electing reactionary bishops as pope by a 1 or 2% margin, you might not feel that way about it, either, by the way.

  5. 5
    Zifnab25 says:

    But the current election seems like a positive sign for Israeli politics, right? I thought that just a few weeks ago people were predicting a landslide win empowering the far right. Is this a return to sanity?

    I hear this song regularly. “But Party X was doing so well just an election cycle ago, what happened?” Duh. The same thing that happens to every democracy the moment one party gains sweeping authority. People start blaming it for all their problems. Suddenly, you’re not so popular anymore.

  6. 6
    Doug Galt says:

    @Jon:

    If the Catholic church were only electing reactionary bishops as pope by a 1 or 2% margin, you might not feel that way about it, either, by the way.

    Indeed, if they had elections at all…

  7. 7
    amk says:

    @PsiFighter37:

    In a major surprise, the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party came second with a predicted 18-19 seats, with Labour next on 17.

    Analysts say the 18 or 19 seats predicted for Yesh Atid, headed by journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid, is a stunning result for a newcomer.

    Mr Lapid has said he will not join Mr Netanyahu’s team unless the prime minister promises to push for peace with Palestinians.

    “We have red lines. We won’t cross those red lines, even if it will force us to sit in the opposition,” Yaakov Peri, one of Yesh Atid’s leaders, told Israeli TV.

  8. 8
    MikeJ says:

    @Zifnab25:

    The same thing that happens to every democracy the moment one party gains sweeping authority. People start blaming it for all their problems. Suddenly, you’re not so popular anymore.

    If the Republicans had any sense they’d try that here, but they keep themselves front and center opposing everything that happens in congress.

  9. 9
    Anya says:

    Netanyahu will lead the coalition government but it won’t be for long. Expect another election in less than a year.

  10. 10
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Doug Galt: They do have elections. Just that the electorate is very small.

  11. 11
    jdrs0819 says:

    //Lapid said that he does not care what the Arabs want. “What I want is not a new Middle East, but to be rid of them and put a tall fence between us and them.” The important thing, he added, is “to maintain a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel.”

    Lapid has said recently that the Left “makes the same mistake again when it negotiates the division of Jerusalem.”//

    Not exactly a defeat of the rightists when it comes to the Occupation…

  12. 12
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @amk: I guess it’s a good thing Labor did respectable this election. They got crushed last election, and Barak sold them out by joining the Cabinet.

  13. 13
    CaseyL says:

    @PsiFighter37:

    Kadima is dead, but Ariel Sharon is still alive.

    Sharon has been in a “permanent vegetative state” since 2006. That’s… some serious karmic payback, right there.

  14. 14
    burnspbesq says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    the electorate is very small.

    And completely out of touch with the “governed.”

  15. 15

    @jdrs0819:
    The right’s – and Bibi’s – position is genocide. ‘Let’s sign a treaty so we can forget Palestinians exist’ is a big step up. Not a big enough step, in my opinion, but it’s a definite repudiation of the right wing.

  16. 16

    They’re going to keep building settlements, right? They aren’t going to allow the Palestinians to have an actual government, right? I don’t see what is going to change over there, but I will admit I don’t understand it.

  17. 17
    eemom says:

    I don’t want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde….

  18. 18
    jdrs0819 says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: In a way you’re right, what will happen is that Netanyahu will now have cover to continue his colonization project. Before the right-wing owned it all, and he was being ostracized. Now the peace process is saved!

  19. 19
    trollhattan says:

    Heard on the radio that Bibi is losing the extreme right, which has me wondering just how wacko they might yet become.

  20. 20

    @eemom:
    …having threesomes with kidnapped young men?

  21. 21
    Doug Galt says:

    @eemom:

    Still waiting for the day I can use that as a post title. I will some day!

    How was the meet-up?

  22. 22
    Mandalay says:

    …increasingly isolated from an America that no longer cares what goes on over there

    As long as America cares about oil in the Middle East it will sincerely care about Israel.

    And even after that, as long as Israeli/Jewish lobbies here continue to wield influence we will continue to have politicians who will have to “care” about Israel as a condition of ongoing employment.

  23. 23
    Chris says:

    As far as generations go, you may be right but don’t forget that Jews aren’t the primary source of public support for Israeli policies. Fundies are.

  24. 24
    srv says:

    A crises will soon appear and resolve any confusion on your part.

  25. 25
    Betsy says:

    I get up in the morning, slavin for bread, suh …

  26. 26
    MikeJ says:

    @trollhattan:

    Heard on the radio that Bibi is losing the extreme right, which has me wondering just how wacko they might yet become.

    Do you remember hearing at the end of the Bush term that Glenn Beck et al didn’t lurve him any more? For the most part they thought he had gone soft. I’d guess the same is true there.

  27. 27
    eemom says:

    @Doug Galt:

    It got aborterated due to football.

    The consensus was we would re-sked when a certain distinguished FPer arrives in the area next month.

    Leastways that is what Steep and Valdivia said and they are young happenin persons and not decrepit old Israelites like I.

  28. 28
    Wag says:

    Who does polling for Israeli elections? Gallup? Rasmussen?

    More importantly, what does Nate Silver have to say about the state of Israeli polling? Has the GOP bought and sold the Israeli press?

    These are questions that need to be thought about long and hard. Our election and the right wing press fail is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

  29. 29
    Betsy says:

    Earworm attack worse when song has only a refrain tune repeated over and over

  30. 30
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @Mandalay: You said Jewish lobby. Just disqualified yourself for SecDef, pal.

  31. 31
    Dick Dastardly says:

    The big winner in this election is a party called Yesh Atid led by a guy called Yair Lapid. This party is being described by US media as “centrist” and “moderate”. Alarm bells ringing yet?

    Here’s a quote from Yair : [Israel] “must at last get rid of the Palestinians” from the West Bank: “we don’t know how long it will take, nor how many will die.”

    http://electronicintifada.net/.....s-are-sham

    So that’s now apparently the centrist position in Israel. Check the link for the lovely people running the other main parties. Israel is the new South Africa.

  32. 32
    Betsy says:

    @eemom: hahaha I read that as “re-skaed” at first

  33. 33
    MikeJ says:

    @eemom: I seem to recall a certain esteem FPer was going to be within driving/Amtrak distance of Seattle too.

  34. 34
    eemom says:

    @Betsy:

    Earworm attack worse when song has only a refrain tune repeated over and over

    It is an amazingly awesome song though, even with that and the incomprehensible lyrics.

    Anyone familiar with “Drugstore Cowboy”?

  35. 35
    Doug Galt says:

    @eemom:

    Great movie, even greater song!

  36. 36
    some guy says:

    eliminationist language? check.
    calls for ethnic cleansing? check.
    racismmm chauvinism and xenophobia used by elected leaders? check.

    just another day in the apartheid regime we send billions to each year.

  37. 37
    Joey Maloney says:

    The thing is, Lapid is a celebrity politician. He’s a former newsreader. He will most likely not be very effective against Bibi. There’s a decent insider wrapup at 972 magazine. He has no real program and zero experience at high-level politicking. Either he’ll be a blustery but useless opposition, or Bibi will make some token gesture and he’ll join the ruling coalition and be neutered.

    One funny bit – while Romney was accused of campaigning to Israel rather than the USA, Bibi was doing the same damn thing –

    The terrible campaign led by Netanyahu – with endorsements from Donald Trump [!] and Chuck Norris [!!], and photos near the Western Wall in Jerusalem – seemed designed to win a seat in Florida, not in the Knesset.

    – and worked just about as well.

    Myself, I voted for Hadash, one of the red parties. Not because I expect them to be effective in particular, but because as American-born, it was a pleasant novelty to vote for a party that is openly, avowedly, and unashamedly socialist.

  38. 38
    Mandalay says:

    @Dick Dastardly:

    Here’s a quote from Yair : [Israel] “must at last get rid of the Palestinians” from the West Bank: “we don’t know how long it will take, nor how many will die.”

    Ah, that explains why Bibi tanked. All the Russian immigrants – generally opposed to Palstinian land rights – must have defected to the “centrist” Yair.

  39. 39
    Yutsano says:

    @Joey Maloney: Sigh. There used to be such a strong Socialist movement in Israel too…

  40. 40
    Mandalay says:

    The terrible campaign led by Netanyahu – with endorsements from Donald Trump [!] and Chuck Norris [!!], and photos near the Western Wall in Jerusalem – seemed designed to win a seat in Florida, not in the Knesset.

    OT, but I think Trump finally jumped the shark when Deadspin put him in his place the other day. It’s one thing to be hated, but when you become a despised laughing stock it’s really over.

  41. 41
    tobie says:

    @some guy:

    eliminationist language? check.
    calls for ethnic cleansing? check.
    racismmm chauvinism and xenophobia used by elected leaders? check.

    At first I wasn’t sure if you were talking about Likud or Hamas. It would be nice if your views on the I/P conflict were not so, how shall I put, manichean.

  42. 42
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Kadima might reach the threshold, and the rump that didn’t jump (hey, a rhyme) to the Tzipi Party may be more inclined. Still, it probably means Bibi has to sidle up to Shas and UTJ, which also means that the proposals to limit exemptions to military service for yeshiva students go bye-bye, which in turn pisses off the secular right-nationalists.

    What’s remarkable about Israeli politics is the way that you get single-issue or factional parties that get a dozen seats one election and vanish the next. There was a seniors’ party one year that got a huge vote, and then was gone. (Perhaps because its voters had expired.) Parties merge, split, form and reform. It’s like a primordial soup of politics.

    Yesh Atid’s one of those flash-in-the-pan parties. It’ll be gone in two or three years, so Yair Lapid, as potential kingmaker, has one chance to decide what to do with the support his party received.

  43. 43
    magurakurin says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    They do have elections. Just that the electorate is very small.

    Can’t you just see Karl Rove, “Hold on a minute. Are we really sure that smoke is white?”

  44. 44
    El Cid says:

    Having a government whose composition comes to mirror the policies which have been more subtly enacted (and which brought about the very power of the people now causing a stir of opprobrium) might help many people here decide that the policies are bad because they are now associated with the sorts of people they don’t like.

    All sorts of nasty policies pursued for generations grow distasteful to many when they can be associated with “Likud” rather than being seen as fairly constant policies, so perhaps a nastier personal governing character could highlight the nasty policies which might otherwise be ignored or excused.

  45. 45
    AxelFoley says:

    @the Conster:

    Netanyahu bet everything on Romney red, and black came up. That had to hurt him

    Literally. ;)

    As Wesley Snipes said in Passenger 57, “Always bet on black.”

  46. 46
    Jay C says:

    @Joey Maloney:

    Myself, I voted for Hadash, one of the red partiess… it was a pleasant novelty to vote for a party that is openly, avowedly, and unashamedly socialist.

    So Joey, if you and about ten other people voted for them, do they get a seat in the Knesset? Or does voting for them make you their MK???

  47. 47
    Yankee Buzzard says:

    Obama Akbar!

    “No one will ever know for sure, but right-wingers will forever believe that President Obama’s stinging election-eve rebuke to Netanyahu, delivered via columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, convinced some voters to abandon their prime minister. If they are correct, then Obama may have had more influence with Israeli Jews than Netanyahu did last year with American Jews”

    http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/w.....m-1.495730

  48. 48
    Yankee Buzzard says:

    Obama Akbar!

    “No one will ever know for sure, but right-wingers will forever believe that President Obama’s stinging election-eve rebuke to Netanyahu, delivered via columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, convinced some voters to abandon their prime minister. If they are correct, then Obama may have had more influence with Israeli Jews than Netanyahu did last year with American Jews”

    http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/w.....m-1.495730

  49. 49
    Joey Maloney says:

    @Jay C: Actually, Hadash won 4 seats, I think the same as they have now.

    …and now this article from the Forward says that the final results are an even split, 60-60, between the Likud-Beitanu alliance and the rest.

  50. 50
    Bloix says:

    #31 – Lapid’s position is that Israel must “finally get rid of the Palestinians” by allowing them their own state.

    ““We know this will end with two states for two nations, but we don’t know how much time will pass and how many people will die,” Lapid said.”

    http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy.....?id=288611

    His position, which is the moderate position in Israel, is that the Occupation is intolerable because Israel cannot be a democratic and Jewish state as long as it continues. Therefore, it has to end.

    The right-wing doesn’t care about the democratic nature of Israel. They think the Occupation can last forever.

    And there are some (very few) left-wingers in Israel, and many more outside of Israel, who don’t care about the Jewish nature of Israel. They seek a one-state solution that would make Israel/Palestine a bi-national state.

    Lapid, like most Israelis, rejects these options. And it enrages him that people will continue to die to prevent what he sees as the only possible solution to the situation. The statement “we don’t know how many people will die” was made in mordant anger.

    Moderate Israelis really don’t care what happens to Palestinians, just as they don’t care about what happens to Syrians or Egyptians. They think in terms of “getting rid” of Palestinians by allowing them to rule themselves. Probably they’ll fuck it up, most Israelis think, but that will be their problem.

  51. 51
    Pococurante says:

    @Bloix:

    Moderate Israelis really don’t care what happens to Palestinians, just as they don’t care about what happens to Syrians or Egyptians. They think in terms of “getting rid” of Palestinians by allowing them to rule themselves. Probably they’ll fuck it up, most Israelis think, but that will be their problem.

    Which is the right answer but, where will they go…

  52. 52
    Ohio Mom says:

    Re: younger American Jews’ disinterest in Israel. I am in late middle-age and feel it in so many ways but nevertheless, I too am profoundly disinterested and unattached to the idea of Israel. I sometimes say my feelings about Israel are the youngest thing about me.

    Some of my antipathy is rooted in the feeling that Israel stole my religion from me. It is impossible to be involved in Jewish communual life (at least in my part of the world) without Israel taking center stage of community events, whether they be religious observances or cultural programs.

    I can’t help but wonder how many others feel the way I do, that we want to be Jewish, not advocates for Israel. How many of us want a place to celebrate the changing seasons of nature and our life spans, and organizations that can help channel our desires to work for social justice, and a place to ponder the unanswerable and find comradery that we are not alone in our existential yearnings, but find those concerns pushed aside for Isreal this, Isreal that?

    I wonder if one day, the organized Jewish community will realize it alientated and lost a lot of people who were repelled by the constant focus on Israel to the exclusion of all else about our Jewish heritage. Or maybe I am only one of a mere handful.

  53. 53
    Pococurante says:

    @Ohio Mom:

    … the organized Jewish community…

    There isn’t such a thing. We love arguing too much.

  54. 54
    Bloix says:

    #51 – they will stay where they are. “Get rid of” is an intentionally aggressive rhetorical expression that means, in context, “we will wash our hands of them,” i.e. “we will get out of their territory.” Lapid talks this way in order not to seem overly concerned with Palestinian rights, which do not resonate at all with most Israelis. What does resonate with Israelis is that governing the Palestinians is a pain that doesn’t have any value to them.

    To understand Lapid’s success, you need to realize that he is tapping into a deep hostility to the ultra-Orthodox and settler communities among most secular Israelis.

    Nowadays, the average Israeli Jew lives in Tel Aviv or its environs, works in hi-tech (IT and bio-tech are huge) or in business, and is not religious. He or she never visits the territories and doesn’t care at all about them, the settlers, or the Palestinians. The deal they have made for past decade or so is that they will be allowed to make money and live a nice, European-style life while the crazies can do what they want in the West Bank. But the deal is breaking down.

    These people pay the taxes and do the military service. They have trouble affording housing, which is becoming more and more insanely expensive, and education, and they hate losing years of their lives to the army and reserve duty – not to mention the risk of getting killed.

    They resent like crazy the government’s ever-increasing expenditure of their tax dollars in subsidies for settlements that they would never in a million years want to live in, and payments to the growing population of orthodox Jews who don’t work, don’t serve in the army, and work tirelessly to extend repressive Jewish law (gender and sexual orientation discrimination in particular, but also Saturday closings), to daily life.

    Lapid is the first secular leader to tie these resentments together: We need to stop funding settlements, he says. We need to stop paying Orthodox men not to work, and paying for the schools for their children that don’t teach math and science. We need to tell the Orthodox that if they don’t want to serve in the army, they can move to Brooklyn (many secular Israelis deeply hate the American right-wing religious “Zionists” who want to live, not in Israel, but in settlements in the West Bank). We need to cut the Palestinian terrority out of our country, where it is like a foreign growth that is killing us, and let the Palestinians do whatever they want with it. We need to spend money building apartments in Tel Aviv, not settlements on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. We need water and power infrastructure in Israel proper, not roads and military installations in the West Bank.

    This is potentially a very powerful, unified message that could form the basis for a majority government in Israel.

    The reason it doesn’t attract a majority of secular Israelis – at least not yet – is fear. Israelis really do fear Hamas, Iran, Hizbollah, and the threat of rocket attacks, or worse, on their homes. Many of them voted for Netanyahu over Lapid because, well, who is Lapid? A former TV pretty face. While Netanyahu can be trusted to smash the Palestinians from time to time.

    But the recent Gaza war didn’t do what Netanyahu expected it to do – guarantee him an increased majority – so maybe the dynamic is changing.

  55. 55
    StringOnAStick says:

    @Ohio Mom: I think you’ve hit that one squarely.

    My husband is Jewish and has zero respect for Israel because of the Palestinian issue; every temple we’ve ever been to drones on about the Israel like it is supposed to be your main allegience in the world, and as a lapsed Christian it always shocks me how much Israel dominates every service I have ever been to.

    His entire co-hort of childhood friends are mostly uninvolved in Jewish life or religion anymore, and the whole Israel thing is why; the only 2 that are still ‘templed’ are both Israel-obsessed because that is what their temples obsess about (one extremely reform, the other conservative). The numbers regarding loss of Jewish identity and declining temple enrollment in the US have a lot to do with marriage outside of the tribe, but they also have a lot (maybe more) to do with exactly what Ohio Mom describes as the co-option of American Jewish religious life into Israeli politics.

    It took awhile for the US to join the rest of the western world in the condemnation of South African apartheid, and I don’t see how the anti-arab apartheid that Israel is constructing is going to be any more acceptable to the rest of the world in the long run. Even my one intellectual hard core conservative (and even Jewish) friend states flat out that nothing gets resolved in the ME until the Palestinians have their own independent state, and that the US winger crowd are absolute morons on this issue. Looks to me like another old white guy issue that gets resolved by changing demographics, hopefully before it’s too late.

  56. 56
    Heliopause says:

    Is this a return to sanity?

    You mean the several decades of left-leaning rule in Israel featuring multiple wars and no resolution of the Palestinian issue? That sanity?

    It’s amazing this discussion keeps happening. It’s like having to remind people that the massive escalation in Vietnam occurred under Kennedy and Johnson.

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