Israeli elections in shadow of apartheid

Following the apartheid logic of Israeli public opinion, the Labor Party, Meretz and Hadash exclude Palestinians from their political agendas towards the January 22 elections. At the same time the Israeli center-left spectrum is empowering an apartheid that is not only perceived by the public opinion, but a demographic reality. So while the majority of people under effective Israeli control are Palestinians, they are rendered irrelevant to Israel’s political debate.

Sheli Yachimovich
Sheli Yachimovich


As the Israeli political parties start to prepare themselves for the January 22 Knesset elections a poll published by Haaretz newspaper on October 24 unveils the known fact that the majority of Israelis assume they live under an apartheid regime and are happy with it.
The poll was conducted by Dialogue, a non-profit company managed by the Israeli Democracy Institute, in the second week of September. According to the poll, almost 60% of Israelis believe that an apartheid regime is already in place. 50% of Israelis believe that Palestinian citizens of Israel are already discriminated against in places of employment, and almost 60% of Israelis believe that this is appropriate. Additionally, almost 50% of Israelis agree that Palestinian citizens of Israel should be transferred into territories administered by the Palestinian Authority, a third of Israelis believe Palestinian citizens of Israel should not be allowed to vote for parliament, 40% of Israelis don’t want a Palestinian as a neighbor and 40% of Israelis don’t want their children to be in the same classroom with a Palestinian.
This poll doesn’t reflect a colonial drive of Israeli society; after all, almost 50% of the Israeli population are against annexing settlement blocs and less than 40% of Israelis would like to annex them. The poll reflects that one sixth of Israelis don’t know and don’t care if settlements will or will not be annexed to Israel. Likewise, one sixth of the Israelis don’t care if Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory will be allowed to vote for the Knesset or no.
The overall message of the poll published by Haaretz is that Jewish Israeli society is tired of the unresolved “Palestinian issue” and wishes it to become irrelevant. After all, Israelis have other issues they consider important: growing unemployment, the rising cost of living and the relations between big money and government.
This political agenda among the Israeli public is adopted by the Israeli centrist and leftist parties towards the upcoming elections. Didi Remez, a former Knesset member of the Zionist-left Meretz party, wrote on his Facebook wall: “the Knesset vote does not mean much politically. On the other hand, the Knesset, and the smaller factions in it, has a lot of meaning when it comes to socio-economic issues, civil and human rights, and democracy. So, the one who see in these elections a tool for change, and not just a way of cleansing his conscience, should focus on these issues when voting.”
This is also the strategy of the Labor party, led by Shelly Yachimovich, who attempted to neutralize the political debate with Netanyahu when she declared on October 24 that Labor party positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are almost identical to those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We support the form of territorial compromise, the two-state solution, keeping settlement blocs, and oppose the right of return,” explained Yachimovich at a press conference where she presented the new recruits to the party.
Yachimovich further explained, “I personally set an economic and social priority in my agenda. I believe that before we make peace for the citizens of the country and go to war to protect national security, we need to have a state,” she said.
Yachimovich also supported Netanyahu when asked about the current attacks on the Gaza Strip. “These are complex operations that require a great restraint. I will not call the prime minister to initiate a military escalation, and I won’t criticize him. I stand behind his actions.”
However, this attempt to isolate and silence the Palestinian issue towards the upcoming elections was also adopted by the Israeli radical left party Hadash, a political front headed by the Israeli Communist Party which is concentrating on translating Israel’s 2011 social protest movement into votes for the parliament.
Dov Khenin, a Member of Knesset for Hadash wrote on his Facebook wall: “in just another three months we will go to vote. Will we be able to translate the social protest into real change at the elections?”
In an earlier post he explains: “it is a big mistake to believe these elections are lost in advance. The truth is that we are not far from reaching 61 MKs for center and left parties. It would be impossible to block Netanyahu and the extreme right without Hadash and an Arab-Jewish partnership.”
Following the apartheid logic of Israeli public opinion, the Labor Party, Meretz and Hadash exclude Palestinians from their political agendas towards the January 22 elections. At the same time the Israeli center-left spectrum is empowering an apartheid that is not only perceived by the public opinion, but an demographic reality.
Israel’s Ministry of Finance calculates for tax purposes that the total population (Israelis and Palestinians) under the Israeli tax envelope, i.e. Israeli effective control, is above 12 million. Out of them seven million eight hundred thousand are Jewish and non Jewish Israeli citizens (66%), and five million nine hundred thousands are Jews (49.82%). 50.18% of people under Israeli control are not Jews.
Politically speaking, Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will not be allowed to vote at all, and the vote of Palestinian citizens of Israel became irrelevant to the political discourse of the Israeli center and left wing parties. This means that the majority of the population under Israeli control became irrelevant to the political debate within Israeli society towards the upcoming elections. No political party puts opposing apartheid in its political agenda.

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

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