Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Israeli Elections

No, Labor is not dead. No more than Likud was dead last time. Some people are saying the Israeli left voted Kadima to prevent a Likud victory. That's good and bad. Good because it worked. Bad because it didn't work well enough. Likud is one seat short of having the same number of seats as Kadima in the Knesset. Yisrael Beitenu is the next largest contingent. (Fuller results.)

I don't really like that Yisrael Beitenu is being called fascist. First, it means "Our Israel," but it should be understood that it's a largely Russian-Jewish party. For recent immigrants largely hated for using up welfare services, and there was an exaggerated perception that few were really Jewish, to announce "Israel is ours, too" was a progressive politic. Further, they're really far left on a few issues, like LGBT rights. Hypermasculinity was such a big part of fascism, I can't square pro-gay fascism. And they're strongly secular, which is going to really frustrate Shas and the religious right. (Look for a push for civil marriage.) On the other hand, they also push politics that are deeply troubling, like a 'loyalty oath' for all citizens. No way the Supreme Court would uphold such a thing, but I'd be deeply hurt if it manages to pass the Knesset. Just because I find it awkward to call Yisrael Beitenu fascist doesn't mean I don't think they're dangerous far-rightists.

On the other hand, it should be noted that Likud is not the Likud of the past. Netanyahu is still Netanyahu, not quite as right-wing than you might imagine. As Gershom Gorenberg put it (I say him at the 92nd St Y last week), he'd often agree to maybe a quarter of what Clinton would ask for, then scrap it facing pressure from his own party and the Knesset. But beneath Netanyahu, who wanted to run to the center, several far-rightists joined Likud and took over. According to Wikipedia, Moshe Feiglin, who previously founded Zo Arteinu ("This is Our land" - contrast with "Israel is Our Country"), once served 6 months of community service for sedition following civil disobedience in opposition to Oslo.

Between them, though, these three parties have 70 out of 120 seats in the Knesset. Something I haven't seen (in what seems a rush to condemn Israel) is that no coalition will likely last long. I think Israeli governing coalitions have averaged around 3 years since the end of Oslo. This time, there might be new elections in as little as 2 years.

It's hardly surprising that Israel has moved to the right - every nation under attack moves to the right. Now we have to think about strategies for reviving the Left. Hint: If attacks push them to the right, being nice might work the other way.

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