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MIDDLE ISRAEL: HOW DEEPLY DIVIDED IS ISRAEL 2019?

Saturday 04/May/2019 - 06:39 PM
Sada El Balad
Israelis، goes the conventional wisdom، are split down the middle.
With each of the two Benjamins winning 30% of the electorate، and with both men and their parties refusing to cohabitate in one coalition، a sense of schism is now rife
The impression was nurtured by Benjamin Netanyahu when he said، while launching the Likud’s campaign، that its power “comes from the people،” insinuating his opponent represents the socially aloof elites.

Netanyahu also mapped an ideological chasm، when he said Gantz’s finance minister will be former Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn، who، if given a chance، would ruin the economy.

The union leader was never his party’s candidate for anything، and his record was about defending the workers، not the elites، but inventing such a candidacy and decrying its presumed implication worked well for inspiring a sense of economic threat and political schism.

On foreign affairs، too، Netanyahu created the impression that an abyss yawned between the Likud and Blue and White، saying that “the Left” preached national weakness، having warned repeatedly of an approaching “diplomatic tsunami” which never came.

Fortunately، these portrayals are not reality but its caricatures. If anything، the election unveiled a broad consensus on all major issues، except one.

THE FIRST big statement the voter made، albeit indirectly، was regarding the Palestinian problem.

By dismembering the Labor Party، whose six seats are 50 less than Golda Meir’s 50 years ago، the Israeli mainstream buried the Oslo legacy along with its pallbearers.

Yes، Israelis remain divided over whether ruling two million Palestinians is moral and desirable، but faith in the two-state formula، once harbored by about half the public – is now shared by less than a quarter of the Knesset.

In the previous elections voters still gave the Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog 24 seats، and another 18 to Meretz and to the Joint List.

Now that formation has plummeted from 42 to 20 lawmakers، and even the man who was its nominal leader، Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay، tried his best as the election approached to avoid discussing the two-state subject in particular، and the Oslo legacy in general.

At the same time، the electorate that this camp lost flocked to Blue and White، a ticket that included، prominently، Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon، a kibbutznik turned Likudnik who originally believed in the Oslo process، then concluded we had been duped، and ultimately thought Israel should have settled a million more Israelis in the West Bank.

It was but the flip side of the Left’s own unfolding retreat from the two-state solution، underscored by novelist A.B. Yehoshua’s call to gradually offer the West Bank’s Palestinians Israeli residency and citizenship، as part of a Palestinian-Israeli confederation of regionally elected lawmakers.

Between them، Ya’alon’s and Yehoshua’s journeys reflect mainstream Israel’s loss of faith in the Palestinian leadership’s desire، or at least ability، to deliver the two-state solution.

This disillusionment – fed by terrorism and its glorification and underpinned by the rejections of Israel’s peace proposals in 2000 and 2008 – was voiced unequivocally by voters who elected 83% of the incoming Knesset.

This is the new consensus vis-a-vis the political spectrum’s left end. Equally unequivocal was the mainstream electorate’s message to the spectrum’s opposite end.
**** Award-winning journalist Amotz Asa-El is The Jerusalem Post's senior commentator and a senior editor of the Jerusalem Report.
--- Edited by Ahmed Moamar

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