The votes are in. The people of Israel have spoken. Although it may take some days or even weeks before we know the exact composition of the new government, the basic results are clear: another right-wing regime with Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm. What’s also clear is that there are deep divisions in the country and that many Israelis voted for change, so that Benny Gantz’ new Blue and White Party achieved as many seats as Likud. But it’s the coalition building that counts in Israel. The right has the might. We are likely to see not merely more of the same, but worse.
Netanyahu made dangerous promises in this campaign, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty over the all West Bank settlements, legal or illegal. This is tantamount to promising annexation, if not in official terms, then de facto. He also declared he would never evacuate a single settler, which is an open invitation to every Jewish Israeli so inclined to find a piece of the West Bank to squat upon. These statements must not be dismissed as overblown campaign rhetoric. Netanyahu has declared war on the two-state solution and his words bring the unthinkable – annexation – into the mainstream. He will be prodded towards keeping this promise by newly invigorated right wing forces. He will be motivated to hand his extreme right allies the West Bank sovereignty gift in exchange for immunity from prosecution over his corruption cases while he is prime minister. And he will want to make “Greater Israel” a reality while his best friend, President Trump, is still in the White House.
Canadian Friends of Peace Now views the Israeli election results with dismay, but steadfast resolve. Those fighting for an Israel that is both a Jewish homeland and democratic and that creates conditions for peace with the Palestinians must receive our redoubled support. Peace Now will have its work cut out for it in pushing back against the pressures for annexation. The movement must find new ways to mobilize against the immorality and madness of killing the two-state solution.
The election results are a wake up call. All those who wish to see the Israel of its founding vision survive, rather than an apartheid-style state that permanently rules over a disenfranchised people must work harder than ever. Giving up on peace is not an option.