Bibi can relax – the ‘center-left’ is really on the right

The actual right-wing bloc looks set to win over 100 of the Knesset’s 120 seats in Tuesday’s election. There’s only one reason to vote against it: the future. 

“Right-wing bloc’s majority slashed,” read the headline over today’s election poll in Haaretz. “The gap is closing,” according to the poll in today’s Yedioth Aharonoth. Both surveys showed the right-religious bloc getting 63 Knesset seats and the center-left-Arab bloc getting 57, and both showed the steadily weakening Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu down to 32.

Even if it is still clear to everyone that Netanyahu will lead the next government, many people will likely gather from these findings that maybe the next government isn’t going to be “the most extreme in Israel’s history,” as has been the expectation.

Forget it. This will be the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, because what passes for the “center-left” is actually the right. There are two overriding questions in this country, two issues that define left and right: occupation and war. Occupation and war are the status quo, and there’s no center about it: You’re either trying to end it, which puts you on the left, or you’re not, which puts you on the right.

Under Shelly Yachimovich, the Labor Party has emphatically stopped trying to end the occupation, and continues in its support of any war any Israeli government wants to start. Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party follows the exact same line. Meanwhile, Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni has focused her campaign on ending the conflict with the Palestinians, which would seem to put her on the left, but her positions are so vague – except her refusal to accept even one Palestinian refugee back into Israel – that it’s hard to take her seriously. Worse, she seems bent on joining the next government; if she’s not decisively on the right yet, that appears to be where she’s heading. And if Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima gets the two seats that the Haaretz and Yedioth polls give him, he’ll go into Bibi’s government like a freight train.

But the most obvious thing that makes the “center-left-Arab bloc” an illusion, that prevents it from being even a potential alternative, is that none of these so-called center-left parties would ever form a government with any of the three Arab parties. (The oldest of them, Hadash, has a Jewish Knesset member and many Jewish supporters, but remains predominantly Arab.)  No Israeli prime minister, no Zionist party, ever sought to include any Arab faction in its coalition. Yesterday, Livni said she wanted to form a “central, Zionist unity government,” which explicitly leaves out the Arabs and would seem to include the aforementioned status quo parties plus Shas, which is as right-wing as Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu, just more religious.

This is an alternative? Shelly Yachimovich and Yair Lapid, who openly support the settlers and run from the label “leftist” like they would from the label “child molester” – they’re an alternative?

No, Tuesday’s election will indeed produce the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, so long as Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud is joined in it by Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi, which is a virtual certainty. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a fascist leadership, but neither would I call it a democratic one; the term “authoritarian” sounds fair. The likely addition of a Haredi party would reinforce this identity,  and any so-called center-left party that supports the status quo even now would, in such a government, be a fig leaf that fooled no one.

As far as I’m concerned, today’s polls continue to show a right-wing bloc of just over 100 Knesset seats and a left-wing bloc, including Meretz and the Arab parties, of 17 or 18.

For anyone who considers the status quo untenable, the reason to vote for Meretz, Hadash, Balad, United Arab List-Ta’al or Da’am (a truly integrated party that won’t make it into the Knesset but which definitely belongs there), is not because there’s a chance to stop the country from sliding further towards hell next week; that’s going to happen. The reason, instead, to vote for one of the above-mentioned parties is because this country poses an acute, rising danger to itself and others around it, and it requires a fighting, principled opposition to keep it alive, to let the Palestinians and the rest of the world know that there’s something here to work with, something to build on in the future, because authoritarian Israel will not change the status quo on its own; it will have to be forced into it by the Palestinians and the rest of the world. Tuesday’s election will confirm this, and so will the next government.

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