Alex Massie Alex Massie

Israel Votes and Hope Loses – Spectator Blogs

Today’s Israeli election does not, it is fair to say, take place in at a moment of supreme hope in the Middle East. Quite the contrary. This is an election whose result seems liable to depress most foreign observers. Bibi Netanyahu is no-one’s idea of a moderate but the fact remains that, presuming he is returned for a third term as Prime Minister, he may be one of the more left-wing members of the new Israeli government. Indeed, Netanyahu is liable to be one of the more liberal members returned on the Likud list.

Daniel Levy has a very useful primer on the dispiriting ‘facts on the ground’. As Levy says:

The next coalition will likely find it even harder to pretend to the world that a 2009 Netanyahu speech in which the phrase “two states” was uttered is a genuine policy commitment. Two states was never formally adopted as government or Likud policy, it does not appear in the campaign of the Likud-Beiteinu party (in fact, it has been disavowedby Likud candidates and is considered to be a key reason there is no party platform), and it is safe to predict that it will also not be adopted by Netanyahu’s next government.

The defining fault line of the new coalition will be less about two states or not, and more focused on the struggle between proactive annexationists and status quo merchants, meaning yet more deepening and entrenching of occupation. In the old Israeli political map, those considered “solutionists” were the two-staters. In the emerging Israeli political map, the “new solutionists” advocating action now are Greater Israel annexationists (a significant cohort of the Likud-Beiteinu and Jewish Home lists). One can still expect the status-quo camp to carry the day, and international reaction to yet more violations of international law to still be plodding and rhetorical rather than meaningful, but two connected factors should not be underestimated — what Israeli overreach toward the Palestinians (settlement radicalism, collapsing the Palestinian Authority) could unleash, and the possibility of a more challenging Palestinian counterstrategy eventually emerging, especially in the new regional environment.


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