Netanyahu’s stability and the disintegration of Israeli politics

Benjamin Netanyahu
The stability of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the disintegration of Israeli politics go hand in hand.

The Likud has lost public support following the collapse of negotiations to draft ultra-orthodox Jewish young men into the military, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu need not worry since, according to two polls published Friday, he may remain in office following the next elections. A poll published by the newspaper Ma’ariv states that the Likud will maintain its current 27 seats in the Knesset while according to Yediot Ahronot, the prime minister’s party will drop to 25.

However, the fate of other parliamentary forces will not improve. According to Yediot Ahronot, the Labor Party, headed by Shelly Yechimovich, may go from 17 to 21 seats and the third force in the Knesset would be Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu. Ehud Barak’s new political formation, Atid, may not receive the required 2% of votes to even be a parliamentary faction after the elections.

While the weekend polls show that Netanyahu may continue as prime minister after the next elections, they also signify the continued disintegration of public opinion in Israel since the early 1990s.

The 1992 elections were the last time that each of the two major political parties (at that time Labour and Likud) had parliamentary representation of 25-30%.

In Israeli parliamentary history, no political faction ever had an absolute majority in Knesset. However, a relative large representation created the conditions in which the largest political party would propose policy shared by related factions. The disintegration of Israel’s political arena in the past two decades also means the disintegration of the possibility to establish a transparent state policy. This leads the Israeli system into paralysis.

Indeed, paralysis and contradictions characterise Israel’s current government. On the question of settlements, for example, a government appointed committee declares that there is no occupation and therefore all settlements are legal. On the other hand, Israeli police confiscate construction equipment in irregular outposts almost daily, sparking terror actions by settlers.

Similarly, on the one hand the government declares it will draft 80% of ultra-orthodox Jewish young men, sparking large mobilisations by ultra-orthodox Jews, but immediately afterwards declares it won’t alter the draft agreements, creating resentment amongst secular nationalist Jews.

It goes without saying that peace is not a political question in Israel anymore because no major faction in Knesset possesses a peace agenda.

On two topics, however, the Israeli government has coherent policies. It is clear that there will be no concessions concerning Palestinians, either in the occupied territories or within Israel. On the contrary: the current government is solidifying the apartheid regime inside Israel’s recognized borders and in the 1967 occupied territories.

In addition, the government makes it abundantly clear that there will be no retreat from its neoliberal policies. During Sunday’s cabinet meeting the Prime Minister, who is also the oversight minister for economic affairs, praised Israel’s economic policies despite criticism and growing social unrest.

In the meeting Netanyahu attacked critics of his economic policies. He claimed that  “there is a wave that clearly contradicts the social-economic concepts of the government. However, in the last years the government managed to lead successful economic policies in comparison to other leading economies in the world.”

However, major economists in Israel disagree with Netanyahu’s rosy descriptions of the country’s socio-economic realities, including Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel. While Netanyahu claims that the budget deficit for 2013 will be at most 3%, the Bank of Israel and serious economists believe the deficit will reach between 6% and 8%, and that budget commitments will be NIS 20BN higher than anticipated.

In this context Netanyahu is the politician with the best chances to become the next Prime Minister because of a total lack of political alternatives. The two possible contenders, Yechimovich and Lieberman, do not promote a national policy but policies that cater to sectarian interest groups in order to secure their position as the second biggest party. While Lieberman would like to secure several ministries for his cronies, Yechimovich would like to be the head of opposition after the coming elections.

In the meantime, Israeli public opinion continues to disintegrate, apartheid solidifies and peace seems a mirage.

 

* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) 

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