Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Dark Timeline Gets Darker: Bibi Returns

I am not a Mideast or Israel expert (I have religiously avoided studying Israel/Palestine in my career--too much literature to read, too much emotion to wade through), but my understanding of ethnic politics leads to a few thoughts that converge with Marc Lynch's tweet yesterday:
What can we conclude from what happened in this campaign and with this outcome?  Simply that Israel is screwed.  Netanyahu successfully "gambled for resurrection" by running as if Obama was his opponent, by outbidding his opponents in demonizing the Arab voters, and by taking the two-state solution off of the table. 

Give Bibi props as it worked.  And it demonstrates something that we political scientists have known far too well and for too long--that which is good for the short term, that which is good for the politician is often bad, very bad for the country.  Indeed, the Bill and Steve book (which needs to have the new intro be an etch-a-sketch so that we can add new irredentism news these days) is entitled For Kin or Country for a reason. 

No good can come of the stances that Netanyahu took in the last days of the election.  His move to deny a two-state solution was an essentially irredentist one--that Israel will be larger, containing the Jews outside the traditional boundaries and bring in the historical (Biblical, I guess) territories.  The problem, of course, is that this will mean that Israel will continue to contain an ever increasing population that is not Jewish.

People have long pondered whether Israel will remain democratic or Jewish, but that it could not be both.  If a large hunk of the population cannot vote, then Israel will not be truly democratic.  If they can, then they will vote and erode the Jewish character of the state.  The two state solution was a way to avoid this fork in the road.  Instead, Netanyahu pushed on the accelerator and the choice seems have been made last night.

I had a bit of hope, as I thought that the increased Arab vote (those residing in the 1947 boundaries can vote) could be a critical coalition partner that would lure at least one major party to engage in a multi-ethnic appeal.  But Netanyahu has proved, I think, that he can win by going the other way.  It is always hard for the multi-ethnic party to compete with the ethnic outbidder, but not impossible.

It seems like enough of Israel has chosen its destiny.... a very difficult and dangerous future where its most powerful ally is alienated, where the task of governing hostile territories becomes not just part of Israel's past but an integral part of its future, and where the values of many are sacrificed due to fear.  Israelis have often felt friendless before, but now they are governed yet again by someone who is making friendlessness both a strategy and a goal it seems.

Tis a dark timeline indeed.


Anonymous said...

lIKUD SHALL CONTINUE ITS' lebenstraum POLICIES.They paid lip service to "negotiations,but it is really about a land grab.Look for more military action,and squeezing their spies, sycophants and 5th column elements for more US funds.Shame on them, shame on us for allowing it to happen.

Anonymous said...

Sooo... I did not understand the above comment. But here's mine...

What do you think about Netanyahu going all Janus and coming out saying he does in fact support a two state solution. Do you think it was an insincere comment to repair U.S.-Israeli relations? Do you think it was sincere? Some other reason?


Steve Saideman said...

I have no idea, but I would have to bet on insincerity.

Of course, it goes to that classic line during the average courtroom drama: where you lying yesterday or are you lying today?