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From: The Socialist issue 849, 25 March 2015: A voice for the 99%

Search site for keywords: Israel - Palestine - Likud - Election - Palestinian - Arab - Gaza

Israel-Palestine: Likud election victory

The new coalition will face a chain of unresolved crises and bitter struggles

Yasha Marmer, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel-Palestine)

"The rule of the right wing is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations en masse. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses."

This blunt racist statement was published on polling day by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was the peak of an ultra-nationalist incitement campaign launched by Netanyahu's party, Likud, in the week before 17 March general election.

Likud, the election victor, faced with a background of growing discontent and revulsion against its rule, strove to mobilise the most reactionary elements in society, particularly the far-right settlers' movement.

The outcome of the election is in many ways a result of this mobilisation. Likud's victory was achieved not at the expense of the rival Zionist Union and the left-leaning liberal Zionist Meretz party but rather at the expense of the parties of the far right.

Netanyahu urged the settlers to support Likud rather than Jewish Home - which triumphed two years ago as the political arm of the settlers' movement - to secure the future of the colonial enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This appeal managed not only to transfer votes from the settlers' party to the Likud but also to recruit a layer of activists from the settlements.

"Anyone but Bibi"

Just a couple of months after the end of the Gaza war (July-August 2014) the reactionary mood in Israeli society began, relatively, to shift - despite deepening national tensions - with the re-emergence of social discontent.

In the election campaign this dissatisfaction was galvanized around a popular slogan - "Anyone but Bibi" (Bibi being Netanyahu's nickname). Indirectly, this slogan also reflected the political vacuum on the left.

The hopes to oust Netanyahu grew just before the election when tens of thousands took part in big rally against the continuation of the Likud rule. However, the platform rally was a mixture of two opposition camps, rallying against the Likud for different reasons.

On the one hand, there were female speakers who were involved in the 2011 social movement and in the struggle against evictions from public housing.

But on the other hand, the platform - that excluded Arab-Palestinian speakers -was mostly dominated by representatives of the establishment and particularly of the army and secret service.

Needless to say, those generals who were implicitly calling for a vote for the Zionist Camp to oust Netanyahu are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

The Zionist Camp differs with Likud in its approach to foreign policy and on some questions of strategy and tactics used by the regime against the Palestinian struggle, but not on fundamentals, ie the continuation of national oppression and expropriation of the Palestinian masses.

During last year's 50 days war on Gaza, Tzipi Livni was to some extent Netanyahu's closest coalition partner and Labour party leader Isaac Herzog supported Netanyahu's course, from the 'opposition'.

The Zionist Camp did manage to get a higher vote than Likud and the rest of the right parties in both Haifa and Tel Aviv, but this was a preference for a 'lesser evil' and not a mass expectation for an actual change in policy.

Unresolved crisis

The final composition of the government coalition is going to be decided in the coming weeks, but it's already clear that Netanyahu will go for the so-called "government of natural allies", ie the far right and religious Haredim parties and Moshe Kahlon - a split from Likud.

Before the election, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI) stated: "A more right-wing government of Likud-Bennett-Haredim is a sure recipe for burning bridges at the international level, an escalating Palestinian struggle, and a social explosion in Israel."

A prolonged honeymoon for the new government is very unlikely.

Internationally Netanyahu starts his fourth term in a much more isolated position, especially after his statement a couple of days before the election that no Palestinian state will be established on his watch.

Western imperialist governments fear that Netanyahu's refusal often to contemplate any significant concessions is preparing the way for future conflicts.

Immediately after the elections Netanyahu conducted two interviews for American media outlets to try to blur his position but without much success.

For the Palestinian masses in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza, the outcome of the election diminished even further any support for negotiations with the Israeli regime.

Netanyahu's racist scaremongering that "Arabs" were voting and his demand that Israel is recognised as Jewish state, ie one in which its 20% Palestinian population is merely tolerated, means that Palestinians expect nothing but the worse from his rule. This feeling can pave the way for a new mass uprising against the occupation and national oppression.

The economy's trend is likely to compel the new government to launch new attacks on living standards and on organised labour, which can push workers and youth into struggles.

Racist legislation

The components of the future coalition are already planning further attacks on democratic rights and civil liberties and new racist legislation against the Arab-Palestinian minority inside Israel. This will generate new rounds of rage and protest.

Two days after the election the head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, called for a march from the rural Bedouin villages in the Negev, which the government doesn't recognise as legal, to the Knesset, before the new Knesset is sworn in.

During the last phase of the election campaign he called for the organisation of a march of tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs for equality in the tradition of the Martin Luther King's US civil rights marches.

This type of action can be a starting point for building the movement in Israel that is needed to stop Netanyahu's new government in its tracks, particularly if organised around both democratic rights for all and wider social demands for welfare, housing, livelihood and peace.

The final results were marked by a regroupment within the nationalist-right bloc. Likud has 30 seats, Jewish Home eight and Yisrael Beiteinu, led by racist foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, only six - only one more than this right-wing bloc got in the 2013 election.

The Zionist Camp - an electoral bloc of the Labour party and Tzipi Livni's Hatnua party, and Meretz - got 29 seats, two more than in 2013. However, their increase in votes was smaller than the increase for the pro-Netanyahu bloc.

The Joint List - an electoral alliance of the Arab-Jewish Hadash, the Palestinian nationalist-liberal Balad and Ta`al, and the Palestinian Islamist United Arab List, won 13 seats, compared to eleven the four components of this bloc achieved in 2013.

As a response to the rise in the election threshold that parties have to clear to get elected - introduced with a clear intention to force Arab-Palestinian representatives out of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) - the turnout among Arab-Palestinians rose from 58% to 64% and the Joint List became the third-largest alliance in the Knesset.

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Article dated 25 March 2015

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