Israel will hold new elections on 17 September, after right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a workable governing coalition after he won elections in April.
Just before those elections Netanyahu announced plans to formally annex to Israel some or all of “Area C” of the West Bank (60% of its land area, surrounding the 160 cities, villages, and other areas of Palestinian-populated land which are Areas A and B). He has made overtures to far-right, Jewish-supremacist parties.
The left, which slumped to its worst ever results in April, remains in a weak position. The mainstream Labor Party, led by corporate millionaire and right winger Avi Gabbay, is running coalition with the liberal Geresh party. Meretz, a left-Zionist, anti-occupation party is running as part of a new coalition with the Democratic party led by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the Green Movement, led by Stav Shaffir, a leftish member of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) who has recently split from Labor.
The coalition is politically contradictory and fragile, with Meretz maintaining its anti-occupation, pro-Palestinian-independence stance while coalition partner Barak makes statements suggesting he could support some form of annexation. As Meron Rappaport asked in 972 Magazine: “Has Meretz given up on the basic principles that have guided it for years? In an agreement over ‘ideological guidelines’ signed by the three parties that make up the Democratic Union, the words ‘ending the occupation’ or ‘two states’ do not appear.”
Hadash, the electoral front of the Israeli Communist Party, is again running as part of the Joint List, with a range of Arab parties of varying political complexions. In the April elections, the Joint List split, weakening the Arab vote. This time it has reunited. The formal leadership of the Joint List slate by Hadash’s Ayman Odeh, a prominent Arab MK (Member of the Knesset), may help give it a more left-wing character.
In April’s elections, Joint List parties won ten seats, Labor-Geresh won six, and the Democratic Union parties won four.
The main opposition to Netanyahu’s Likud party remains the centrist Blue and White coalition, led by former IDF general Benny Gantz, which, while making occasional critical murmurings about the occupation, often criticises Netanyahu from the right on security issues, for example attacking him for not having taken a stronger line against Hamas.
According to the Guardian: “To crack the stalemate, Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, seems to be betting on a unity government with Likud, but one that does not include its leader, ‘King Bibi’. That would be a huge and taboo move for Likud, as Netanyahu has won his party more than a straight decade in power and become the country’s longest-serving prime minister.”
The April elections were characterised by low voter turnout from Israeli Arabs, many of whom boycott elections. Right-wingers attempted to intimidate more Arabs into not voting, including by installing cameras in voting booths.
One Arab voter, interviewed in 972 Magazine, said: “In the 90s, we yearned for peace and equality. The right has created a reality in which there is, de facto, no peace and no equality. So, what do we want now? What is our project as a national minority?”
Beyond the elections, perhaps the best source of hope remains the growing Standing Together movement, an extra-electoral left-wing social movement involving both Jews and Arabs, which campaigns not only against the occupation and for Palestinian independence, but on working-class social issues such as wages, housing, and climate change.