Israeli Politics


In the circles I moved I heard disillusionment. Starting with the election of Likud in 1977, Israel has of course moved to the right as compared with the left wing ideals of many of the original immigrants. One Israeli remarked to me that Israel had become the exact opposite of all the reasons why she had moved there in the first place. The situation is complicated by the fact that over a million Jews for the most part of right-wing persuasion have, since 1989, arrived in the country from the former Soviet Union. They know nothing of the history of 1948, saying to Palestinians ‘where did you come from?’, or supposing they were brought in by the British military. (I saw a video in which a settler accused Palestinians of being Egyptians!) Israelis commonly don’t distinguish between nationalities, calling all Arabs simply ‘Arabs’.

The diversity of Israelis is such as to make it difficult to hold the country together. One can see this diversity simply by observing the crowd in a covered market in West Jerusalem. Israeli Jews are, after all, divided in all the following ways: holocaust survivors/those of the younger generation; rich/poor; immigrants/born in Israel; Sephardic (Arabs, north African) /Ashkenazy (European); secular/ all kinds of religious groups; differences of race – one sees a number of black Jews among the soldiers, presumably from Ethiopia. Then there are the Israeli Palestinians to some extent segregated but still part of Israel in their midst (the latter having large families and increasing as a percentage of the Israeli population).

The Israeli left appears to be extraordinarily weak at present and the Israeli peace movement not what it once was. Such as it is, it appears to lack grass-root connections. After the massacres in the Lebanon in 1982, 400,000 Israelis demonstrated; after operation Cast Lead in Gaza 2008-09, scarcely 400. As Israel moves to the right, people want to be seen to be ‘patriotic’. The support given by Israelis to the Gaza war is a matter for extreme disappointment among Palestinians. There is also despair that the Israeli left simply focuses on ‘peace’ understood in vague terms, while failing to address the major issues: house demolitions, the refugees, land issues, and prisoners. (ICAHD is clearly exceptional here.) As an Israeli commented to the group I was with: ‘we are creating the conditions in which terrorism is bound to thrive’.

It must be understood that in many ways the Israelis have been lied to and deceived by their leaders. Israelis will say ‘what was Oslo about?’. Their leaders were, after all, getting peace prizes. The population was led to believe that their government was making peace. People were not noticing that at the same time the settlements were doubling; it didn’t impinge. Sinai was given up. Thus the impression was given: ‘We are making peace’.  It comes to look as though ‘they’, the Arabs, are the problem. Meanwhile the army was setting up a system of control from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river. Strips of contiguous settlements were created in the West Bank which it was thought neither the Americans nor the UN would be able to pull apart such that a future Palestinian state would be made non-viable. The Israelis have been lied to that ‘they’ don’t want peace. Of course the Palestinians want peace: who wouldn’t? But on the basis of a viable state.

What the Israelis actually want is to be divested of the expense of controlling the Palestinians, which is huge, while yet continuing to control them. Hence Avigdor Lieberman (the present right wing Minister of Foreign Affairs) would like to see wholesale transfer of the Palestinian population out of Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The initial stance of the Obama administration unnerved Israelis. Israelis were going to Washington with no real idea what the administration’s take would be. For the first time they were not privy to the administration’s thinking; it was not all being arranged by officials behind the scenes before a meeting.

No lack of new housing for Jews

Jewish market, West Jerusalem

Old Jewish quarter, West Jerusalem

Mural and Graffiti, West Jerusalem

See Further on this Site:

- Israeli Psychology

- The Present Impasse