The political right and left in Israel are weeks away from the next election and have made their lists for the Knesset seats they may win in the coming elections. What is interesting is both sides actually agree on a number of subjects but still stand at odds on these very same issues. The biggest point of agreement is that they believe that the people of Israel by a large majority want peace and an end to terrorism, conflicts and any need for military interventions. The difference is those on the Left believe that this can and should be pursued through compromise and negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas and cooperation with world bodies such as the United Nations and European Union. They see United States President Obama as an ally with whose assistance the peace process can be resumed and with small sacrifices from Israel and the removal of those “settlers” from the Palestinian lands that peace will logically ensue. They believe that much of the accusations of Prime Minister Netanyahu by many European leaders and liberal progressives in the United States are completely valid and that Prime Minister Netanyahu is at the root of what is wrong with Israel. They also see Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as an uncontrollable person who is bordering on madness and is untrustworthy and his abrasive personality and blunt manner cause additional problems for Israel’s world image. If only sane and worthy people can be returned to the offices of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, then Israel will be accepted by the rest of the world and there would soon be peace with the Palestinians and lead to stability between Israel and the Arab world, especially Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.
The right which is made up largely by the combined Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu Party and the Religious Zionist Parties and Shas also realized that the Israeli people are tired of the endless violence and terrorism but they also realize that much of the population are also realistic enough to realize that the only way to end these threats is through strength and presenting a strong and united front demanding that which will allow Israel to face all threats from a position of strength and from within defensible borders. The majority of the Israeli public has come to the realization that there is no partner for peace from within the current Palestinian leadership, especially Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They are aware that the recent Operation Pillar of Defense that was waged to cripple the ability of the Gaza terrorists to continue to fire rockets into southern Israel was ended prematurely. There were some who voiced disgust with the government for not removing Hamas and retaking the Gaza Strip. Others realize that there are likely considerations, concerns and possibly threats which forced the decision to end Operation Pillar of Defense earlier than possibly even the government or the IDF would have desired. Israelis are getting used to but not necessarily accepting without protest the world’s regular interference with any defensive actions taken by Israel against either the terrorists perched on her borders or the Arab nations should they pose an immediate threat seemingly to deny Israel the overwhelming victory over her enemies which might actually force an end to their attempts to destroy and erase their existence. Still, the majority of Israelis, as the coming election is likely to prove, realize that if they are ever going to live in peace and put an end to the terror attacks that they will require a strong government that is perceived as unafraid to use whatever force is required to prevent the realization of the threats from the terrorists and other threats such as Iran and Turkey. The one position taken by some factions on the right which finds the Israeli more evenly divided concerns the “settler” movement and the communities in Judea and Samaria, deceptively called the West Bank by the Palestinian and Arab entities. There are those who favor a complete retreat to the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice Lines, and cede the rest to the Palestinian authority for their state. Others believe that Israel needs to simply absorb all of Judea and Samaria, world opinion be damned. It is likely the largest groups fall between these two extremes. Many desire retaining the major communities and surrendering the minor “settlements” which are of smaller size than places such as Ariel, Betar Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, and Modi’in Illit. Some that have divided support include Beit El, Efrat, Elkana, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, Kiryat Arba, Ma’ale Efraim, Itamar, among others. There is also a great amount of support by the IDF, those whose concerns parallel military strategies, and many Zionists who also insist that Israel retain at a minimum a military presence throughout the Jordan River Valley and Jordan Valley Ridge as early warning, radar, and other defensive posts and sensor stations. Despite their differences, most of these groups will vote for the right wing, religious, and Zionist parties while holding to hopes that any coalition made will not require severe compromises made on their conservative values and desires for a strong Israel presence in the world.
The major differences where there is little agreement come into play when we look at social services and the economy. The left support an extensive, all encompassing, massive state safety net which is able to redistribute wealth making for a guaranteed level of comfort for all Israelis even if such requires greater levels of taxation. This was the presiding position for the first decades of Israeli existence as the Labor Party held unchallenged power and had set up a central, state run economy with the expectant socialist monetary policies. This influence was changed significantly by Benyamin Netanyahu when he served as Finance Minister under Prime Minister Sharon. During his term in this position he privatized many of the previously government run industries, companies and service industries. This along with business friendly programs Netanyahu gained recognition for an economic revitalization of the Israeli economy which has never really looked back. These policies were in part responsible for the Israeli economy’s continued solid performance when the economies of Europe, the United States and the rest of the industrialized world were in recession as their economic health faced a financial collapse of a variety of markets simultaneously. Many of the youth, as was evident in the social protests two summers ago, desire to return to the socialist wonder-world which many have been taught by their professors is the panacea to all the ills caused by capitalism. The question is how much economic issues will have on the coming election.
This election, if I have it right, is going to be more about security and who will best protect Israel from an apparently hostile world, which was made hugely evident by the recent vote in the United Nations General Assembly where the Palestinian Authority was granted recognition of statehood. Some political pundits have claimed that the United Nations vote gave the Palestinian Authority the right and permission to set the new state’s boundaries. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman both present the point that the United Nations vote actually was nothing more than a suggestion and granted the Palestinian Authority nothing that they are unable to enforce militarily. Where I would not wish to even attempt to guess how many Knesset seats will go to each of the various parties but will predict that should the parties on the right wish, they will very likely be able to make a conservative coalition. The coalition would likely consist of the merged Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu Parties, the merged Tekuma National Union and Habayit Hayehudi Jewish Home Parties, and likely Shas which might produce a coalition with sixty-three to sixty-five seats in the Knesset. Once more I find myself ending an article with time will tell.
Beyond the Cusp