As election time in Israel draws near (the date set is 22nd January 2013), the plethora of parties and personalities vying for the Israeli voter’s attention is becoming ever more frenetic. On the one side is the massive combined weight of two right-wing parties, led by Avigdor Lieberman and current Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, while on the left is a motley array of groups and individuals that are barely distinguishable from one another as regards their policies and their aspirations. The general feeling is that we are like Alice in Wonderland, where our mere physical existence seems to be part of an insoluble enigma.
The political, economic and security situation of Israel continues to be one that inspires both admiration and fear. Admiration for the achievements in many fields by a country whose existence has been threatened ever since its inception, and fear regarding its precarious situation in the international arena, with opprobrium being directed at it from one quarter or another, no matter what it does. If it adopts an aggressive stance in the face of attacks and threats from those who seek to destroy it, it is condemned as an aggressor and occupier. If it withdraws from so-called ‘occupied areas,’ as it has done in the past, it is subjected to rocket attacks and attempts at murderous incursions into its territory.
But to get back to the upcoming elections, the disarray of the parties of the left and centre seems to reflect the confusion of ideas as to how to resolve the situation in which Israel finds itself. If it withdraws from the ‘occupied territories,’ as the international community seems to wish it to do, thus enabling the Palestinian State to come into being, what will the upshot be? The parties on the right are convinced that the immediate result will be a hail of rockets on Israel’s vulnerable towns and villages, ending in disaster for all concerned. After all, Israel has the strongest army in the region, and would deploy it if attacked. But the cost on both sides would inevitably be great.
If the parties on the left gain power, they purportedly will seek an amicable solution with the current Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, headed by Abu Abbas, whose official term as President of the Palestinian Authority ended four years ago and who is not considered as their true representative by most of the residents of the area there. In Gaza the Hamas-led leadership openly declares its hostility to Israel and aspires to its destruction. The echoes of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ are beginning to waft into the area, and it may only be a matter of time before mass demonstrations along the lines of those seen in neighbouring Arab countries break out all over the West Bank. The presence there of Israeli settlers may not do much to calm an already volatile situation, and claims to an age-old attachment to the land, dating back to Biblical times, are neither very helpful nor carry any great validity in this day and age.
The general consensus in Israel seems to be ‘don’t rock the boat.’ Leave things as they are, with the current right-wing government in power, free to continue with its contradictory policy of encouraging settlement in the occupied territories while at the same time claiming to be seeking peace. But since peace means leaving Israel vulnerable, who in their right mind would want peace at that price?
The bottom line here seems to be that more people than ever before are confused as to what is the right policy and which party to vote for. The fact that the left-centre parties are unable to form a united front only further complicates the situation, and general disillusionment with the political process is rife. In fact, the latest polls show that the grouping with the largest number of votes, or rather non-votes, is that of Israelis who say that they are not going to bother to vote in the forthcoming elections, and at the last count this group numbered two million people. The prospect is far from encouraging, but to date there is no solution in sight for even the most incorrigible optimist, such as myself.