Early exit polls from Israel’s election suggest a close result, with both incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz, leader of the centre-right “Blue and White” bloc, claiming victory.
In Israel’s coalition-based parliamentary system, much demands on which parties are prepared to work with which other parties. Smaller right-wing parties are likely to hold the balance of power and, with many of them likely to back Netanyahu, he could well be returned to the Prime Ministership for a fifth term, ushering in the most extreme-chauvinist administration in Israel’s history, propped up by parties whose nationalism it would not be an exaggeration to describe as Israeli-Jewish-supremacist.
Electoral prospects for the Israeli left are bleak, with many exit polls predicting just 20 seats collectively between the centrist-social-democratic Labor, the left-Zionist Meretz, and Hadash, the electoral front of the Israeli Communist Party. Responding to the exit polls on Twitter, Alon-Lee Green, National Director of Standing Together, a radical-leftist Jewish-Arab social movement, said on Twitter that activists should respond by “shaking of conservatism” and “building a new left”.
4.75 million Palestinians living under Israeli colonial rule (directly, in the case of those in the West Bank, and indirectly, as a result of economic blockade, in Gaza) had no right to vote in the Israeli elections, despite having a very great deal at stake. Israeli Arabs, part of a 20% minority within Israel, have voting rights, but many boycotted the election. Early indications suggest the Arab turnout will be a possibly historic low. 6.5 million Jews, including those living as settlers in Palestinian Territories, were able to vote.
There were numerous accusations of gerrymandering and intimidation of Arab voters. Supporters of Netanyahu’s Likud party were caught installing cameras and recording devices in polling booths in Arab towns. Israel claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”. But it is a democracy distorted by national chauvinism, and by the discrimination against its Arab minority.
Before the election, Netanyahu announced his intention to formally annex the West Bank, a Palestinian territory governed by the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority, but replete with Jewish settlements defended by the Israeli military.
Annexation would turn the West Bank from a colony of Israel to part of Israel proper. This “Greater Israel” chauvinism seeks to wipe out the possibility of Palestinian national rights, and formally render the Palestinian population of the West Bank, numbering nearly three million, as second-class citizens within a Jewish state. Any form of Palestinian self-government would be limited to the Gaza Strip, strangled by an economic blockade maintained by Israel, with the support of Egypt.
Against this bleak backdrop, characterised by a deepening national chauvinism in Israel, the left in Britain and internationally can best serve the cause of the Palestinians by supporting those forces, such as Standing Together, fighting for Jewish-Arab unity, and for a settlement to the conflict that ends Israeli occupation and blockade of Palestinian Territories, grants full equality to the Arab minority in Israel, and acknowledges the national rights of both the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs.