Part 1 - by Beate Zilversmidt
The elections were after all an earthquake. The blocs were broken up.
Israeli multi-party system had more and more developed into a de-facto
bi-partisan situation, with fixed right of center and left of center
blocs. The ultra-orthodox (Haredi) religious parties were before 2000
still sometimes changing course, thereby acquiring much power as
king-makers. But they seemed to have found their destination on the
right. New parties trying to become recognized as "center parties" got
crushed, or ended up being labeled "left wing". Kadima, the party
created by Sharon just before he got the stroke from which he didn't
recover was meant to be a center party. The remnant of it was considered
in the 2013 elections as belonging to the left bloc.
the blocs are no more. The anti-Haredi bond between the extreme right
"Bayit Yehudi" and the center-left "Yesh Atid" is overriding other
loyalties. What the nationalist-religious and the secularists - both led
by new political stars - have in common is their dislike of the Haredi privileges. For the secular Yair Lapid it would be enough
when Haredim will be conscripted to the army. For Naftali Bennett there
is one more target: to riggle the chief rabbinate out of Haredi hands.
(If Bennett and Lapid would both enter the government and succeed to
break the Haredi privileges, they would soon stop being allies as they
hold totally different ideas about the elephant in the room,
Without the fixed blocs
and though his party lost big, Netanyahu seemed still the only one who
could be asked to form a government coalition. Now he is doing
everything to avoid being crushed in the nutcracker - under coordinated
pressure from the two novices, from left and right simultaneously.
Therefore he needs everybody else's support.
point of arithmetic it should not be so difficult with Lapid and Bennett
together holding not more than 31 seats of the Knesset's 120. But
Netanyahu and his Likud are encountering some other hurdles. Though
originally a "peoples party" the Likud became under Netanyahu
identified with hard-line economic liberalism. And exactly now the Labor
Party (15 seats), under Shelly Yechimovitz, is taking its name
seriously and demands a totally opposite economic policy.
Netanyahu could probably gather together 57 out of the 120, with Tzippy
Livni already in, and for whose 6 seats he was willing to emphasize the
importance of the two-state solution; Kadima (only 2 seats but still
toughly negotiating); and the Haredim (two parties, together 18 seats)
so to say "in Netanyahu's pocket". Added to that the 31 of the
Likud-Beyteynu alliance Netanyahu would still not have a majority in the
Knesset, but it doesn't seem likely that anybody else could garner more
without new elections being held.
If Israel would be a
different place altogether there would be left a way for Netanyahu to
make the 57 into 61, without any problem of having to compromise on such
touchy matters as religious privileges and economic course. In an
Israel different from the really existing one it would at least be
considerable to include also Israel's Muslims. The Ra'am-Ta'al party (4
seats) would not create any problems on the issues Netanyahu singled out
But, including an Arab party, appointing
an Arab minister, and thus out of the ruins creating some new hope for
Israel, of course Netanyahu would never do such a thing, not even out of
The nutcracker dilemma
Part 2 - by Adam Keller
Elitzur, who had been secretary general of settlers’ Judea and Samaria
Council and Netanyahu’s chef de bureau and later became an influential
columnist of the Israeli right-wing, is very enthusiastic about the
political alliance forged between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett. He
writes: "There is something exciting that two people completely new to
politics, both in their forties, are at the head of two big parties.
Aside from their age and the enthusiasm of something new starting, there
are other significant things that are common to both of the parties
behind Lapid and Bennett. For example, an awareness that the old debate
between Left and Right on the future of the Territories is not
necessarily the most important of issues. A new generation has arisen,
which is tired of this division and which sees a lot of important and
urgent matters on which Left and Right can work together."
this new generation considers the issue of forcing upon Haredi youths
recruitment to military service as far more important and urgent than
the question of what duties and tasks the State of Israel imposes on
its army. And it is a fact that the opinion polls which made
headlines in the weekend papers predict great success for Lapid and
Bennet and their respective parties, were repeat elections held in the
Still, over there - behind the fences and
walls, very close geographically but worlds away from the hearts and
minds of the majority of Israelis – are living millions of people who
are far from tired of the debate whether Israeli occupation continues or
ends. They care little if it is devout Haredim or irreverant Atheists
who don the IDF uniform and go out to harass drivers at checkpoints on
Palestinian highways, guard the ever expanding settlements built on
Palestinian land and shoot tear gas at protesters and demonstrators.
week, an increasing wave of demonstrations and protests throughout the
Palestinian territories, culminating on Friday at the East Jerusalem’s
Temple Mount mosques, at long last forced the Israeli printed and
electronic media to pay some attention to what is going on among
Palestinian prisoners held in Israel’s prisons. Already soon after last
year’s prisoner exchange, the security services found various pretexts
to start re-arresting an increasing number of the Palestinians released
in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Lacking other recourse,
four of these re-arrested prisoners turned to a prolonged hunger strike
endangering their lives – which makes them into heroes in the eyes of
Palestinians regardless of political affiliation.
Thursday, Samer Al-Issawy, who had gone without solid food for more
than 200 days, appeared in court in a wheelchair. He was charged with
having “violated the terms of his parole by leaving the boundaries of
Jerusalem” - having gone to a garage at a Jerusalem suburb which has
not been annexed to Israel and is legally part of the West Bank. For
this he was condemned to eight months imprisonment, the term deemed to
have started with his arrest on July 7, 2012.
would set him free in a few weeks from now - but that may not be the end
of the matter. Through hastily enacted regulations, any breach of the
law by a Palestinian released in the Shalit Exchange could lead to
re-imposition of the original, years-long term. In the case of Issawi,
who is determined to continue his hunger strike until he is free, this
would be tantamount to a death sentence.
previous cases, Israeli authorities showed themselves wise and flexible
enough to set hunger striking prisoners before any of them could die in
prison. Hopefully, they would act as wisely this time, too. Which in
itself is far from enough to avert outbreak of the often predicted and
talked about Third Intifada.
Palestinians feel that
the world has forgotten them and abandoned them to open-ended Israeli
occupation and the steady encroachment of Israeli settlements, and are
far from being impressed by Netanyahu reiterating his verbal commitment
to the two-state solution and getting the famous Tzipi Livni to
represent him in negotiations, if and when they are resumed. Lacking a
real reason for hope, any chance spark could light the dry tinder.
Exactly twenty five years ago, a pure accident – an Israeli driver
hitting Palestinian pedestrians – was enough to set alight the fires of
the First Intifada. Would President Obama, in his visit scheduled for
next month, provide a measure of real hope – or will still another
disappointment be added to the combustible mixture?
there is at least one young Israeli who is not “tired of the old debate
between Left and Right on the future of the Territories”. Nathan
Blanc, a 19-year old Israeli from Haifa, is already for many months
going in and out of prison due to a particularly firm position taken in
this old debate.
Blanc’s cycle has so far repeated
itself six times. He comes to the Induction Center, is ordered to join
the army, says "I will not serve in an army of occupation" and gets
sent to another month at Military Prison 6. Gets out of the prison - and
straight again to the Induction Center, refuses again and goes back
through the revolving door to prison. So it has gone on, and without an
end in sight. The army has patience, the military authorities strongly
insist that this young man must surrender and serve. But Nathan Blanc
also has patience and perseverance, and he certainly does not intend to
capitulate. Another month in prison and yet another, and the saga
This morning, hundreds of
activists of the Yesh Gvul Movement climbed on the mountain opposite
Military Prison 6, to celebrate the Purim holiday together with with
Nathan Blanc and his fellow prisoners. Artists came voluntarily to
perform, and strong loudspeakers carried the sound of singing into the
prison courtyard. And meanwhile, the name of Nathan Blanc is becoming
increasingly known internationally. In Switzerland a poster was
published with his photo, the student newspaper at Emory University in
the United States published an article praising him as a hero, When I
was a month ago in at Hiroshima in Japan, I found that there, too, peace
activists have already heard of Nathan Blanc.
Blanc has already rejected the option of getting psychiatric discharge.
more months of imprisonment accumulate, what is waiting him is a court
martial where he could be condemned to years in the harsh military
prison conditions. Then, also he may enter the headlines and the news
broadcasts of the mainstream media around the world – another victim of