Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Israel's Best Hope

Ironic maybe that Israel's best hope is seen as a danger:

In the ethnic politics literature, it is generally seen as a positive thing when parties representing the majority have to appeal to minority communities for votes (see Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict).  The need to appeal to non-majority groups serves to mute the incentives to engage in ethnic outbidding--to promise ever greater steps to protect one's ethnic group at the expense of others.

If Israeli politicians actually had to appear to Arabs, it might offset the power of other minorities, the ultra orthodox, as well as strengthen the hands of the less irredentistly inclinded.  The statements by Netanyahu in his desperate bid to stay in power reveal that some trends are pushing against him and his party--that if the Arab vote turns out, more moderate forces may be able to govern with the support of parties presenting the Arab community.

Of course, this speaks to a larger challenge down the road--but much closer than it used to be--when Israel has to choose to be democratic or be Jewish.  The one-state non-solution that Netanyahu favors these days would drive the country directly at this fork in the road.  Demonizing one part of the electorate to stay in power is a perfectly democratic thing to do in the sense that it happens in most democracies (see voterfraudfraud in the US for a similar example), but it is pretty hostile to the idea and practice of democracy.

If there were not already sufficient reasons to cheer for Netanyahu's defeat, this last gasp, aimed at a minority group, should be enough. 

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