Challenge to the established order in Israel

Binyamin Netanyahu is running for re election. Again. He has represented the right wing of Israeli politics for over two decades and seemingly waltzed back into premiership in 2005. He led the Israeli political sphere in the 90s and there have increasingly been doubts of him ever being replaced as leader in Israel. Politics outside Likud (his party) have been far too fragmented, with various party leaders squabbling amongst eachother and thus leaving his political sphere untouched and unchallenged.

In an article by CBS News, it is announced that Netanyahu will accomplish one of the following in the forthcoming election: to ‘make history or become history’. Sure enough, another term in office would allow Netanyahu to surmount David Ben Gurion as having the longest time in office of any Israel president. But the elections on Tuesday represent a watershed moment for Israel, Middle Eastern politics and international politics in general. For all Netanyahu stands for and professes is to be contested and potentially defeated by the centre-left coalition, which has slowly cemented a common understanding between them. It is this coalition which forced the calling of the second batch of snap elections in the space of two years. ‘Bibi’ s comfortable hold on Israeli politics has been contested more and more over the past few years, and it is this Tuesday when he will wake up with a sick feeling in his stomach.

Bibi, as Israelis fondly have named him, wormed his way into politics from a very conservative family. He represents the stalwarts of the Israeli society, consistently calling for the removal of Hamas leaders and projecting the ‘victimisation of Israel’ by the West, by the Middle East, basically anyone who has challenged his treatment of Gaza and Palestine. With Bibi in power, the Middle East has been locked in conflict over the very question of settlement in Gaza. He frequently applauds Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory, rendered illegal by the United Nations and condemned by all Western nations. His rejection of negotiations with the Palestinians, who he has collectively named as ‘terrorists’ makes a peaceful solution to the conflict completely unattainable.

His obsession with the defence budget has alienated many and polarised popular opinion against him. Israeli economy and education have completely collapsed, all at the expense of a huge defence budget. Bibi’s agenda is swamped by a dedication to radically increasing the military budget even further than before. 5.6 per cent of the budget is spent on military, in comparison to the 2.2 per cent spent in the UK.

Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have declined to the point that Netanyahu must go to the US Congress to receive cheers and open support. The fragile nature of their relationship means a veritable solution to the ongoing problems in the Middle East is probably further away than ever.

But Israeli politics have evolved into something which could finally challenge Bibi’s control of the situation in the Middle East. The development of the ‘Zionist Union’ who despite their name, have repeatedly challenged Netanyahu’s treatment of Gaza and the Palestinians, and, even more remarkably, the Arab Joint List, now pose a threat to what was previously seen as a lost case for politics; the biggest and most blatant example of dull one party affairs.

His sole focus on ‘national security’ has meant the cost of Israeli living has spiralled out of control. We are seeing a domestic atmosphere incredibly hostile to Netanyahu. One which could and should finish the prospect of reelection.

The Zionist Front is a coalition between the Labour party, traditional opponents to Netanyahu, and the Hatnua party. Together, with a host of other parties, they have built up a coalition, the first effective coalition in the last few decades, which has the potential to challenge the monotony of Israeli politics and introduce another layer into the political cake of Israel. Livni, head of the Hatnua party, is openly pro-cooperation with Palestine to the point that she was chucked out of her role in Netanyahu’s party a few years ago. So she also has a personal point to prove. She is also hugely liberal in her general approach; she represents the first major Israeli politician who is openly for gay rights. Together with Yitzhak Herzog, she has amassed a coalition which has the potential to challenge Netanyahu’s authority.

The recently formed Arab Joint List is the first representation of Arabs in Israeli politics with any real say in the political system. This breath of fresh air, led by Ayman Odeh, has refused to take part in any Israeli government, because of the exploitation of Gaza’s residents, but its recent rise to proficiency highlights the development of Israeli thought. Trust in Netanyahu is no longer maintained to the degree that it was; the younger generations especially are rejecting his treatment of the Gaza strip as inhumane and illegal. The small number of Arabs living in Israel, who make up 15 per cent of the populace, are poised to be represented in government for the first time.

We can’t pretend they are the saviours of the situation. They have stated they will “take action to weaken and isolate these in order to bring about the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.” As of yet we don’t know what this will bring, what sort of ‘action’ they are promising. But negotiations and an aim to negotiate is a step forward from the current situation.

Netanyahu represents the established order. But a challenge to his authority by the centre left would reshape the possibility for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. A government led by the Zionist Union would be much less inclined to direct missiles into the Gaza strip. This opportunity represents a potential incision in the vicious circle of defensive aggression that has plagued the Middle East for so many decades. An attack by Netanyahu is met by retaliation from the Gaza strip, and vice-versa. Netanyahu’s refusal to negotiate has hardened, even strengthened Palestinian resolve to fight back against his oppression. But were a government such as the Zionist Union to come in, we could see a dramatic fall in support for Hamas in Palestine, for the pure reason that Israel would offer alternatives to a continuation of violence.