The Middle East and Israeli elections
By SAHAR AMARIR
The big elephant in the room that concerns Israel’s security and the middle class’ burden on an economic level stays ignored by most: the conflict.
One of the first expressions I was taught in Hebrew is “shnei yehudim, shalosh
deot,” “two Jews, three opinions,” which I found funny for being the idiomatic
equivalent of a famous Arab saying: “The only thing Arabs agree on is to
Both are a sarcastic way of pointing out the numerous and
often contradictory opinions among each group. These would also be the best
expressions to describe the region’s reactions and comments during and after the
The contradictory reactions were almost comical: while
a Hezbollah supporter claimed out of nowhere that Arabs were all eyes on Israel
during the elections, on an Arab news channel the result of Israeli elections
were announced as quickly as the German ones would have been, while mostly
focusing on recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria.
engaged in discussing the outcomes of the elections and their consequences on
the peace process and decided to interview random people in the street to get
their point of view. Only then do we realize the people interviewed are
Palestinians, in the middle of Ramallah, which would seem beyond understanding
for other people who consider Israelis to be the ones to have asked about
But this was actually the main – if not sometimes the only – interest
in those Israeli elections: what would the next government do vis-à-vis the
ongoing conflict, and will it end the plight of the Palestinian people? In that
regard, a newcomer in Israeli politics is at the center of all hopes: Yair
All the predictions and expectations focus on him, depicting him
as a centrist hero who will bring change to a hopeless situation, and elsewhere
as a deceiving figure who will eventually lean to the same rightist policy that
has fed and sustained the status quo.
Seen as the man who led the Center
to a semblance of political revival, some even feel close to his ideas, which
echo the struggle of the forgotten: his defense of the average people of the
middle class, his strong statements regarding the far right and his refusal to
give in to religious extremists makes him appear a more rational figure than
what we have become accustomed to.
His strong commitment to the two-state
solution and the fact he claimed to consider it a priority also seemed to have
given him more credit, as did the hope that he will work more closely with the
Quartet, rather than confront them and stand up to the rest of the world to
pursue questionable policies.
However this hope was balanced by others
claiming that Lapid would oblige Netanyahu anyway, that though he was almost
aggressive toward the Right, the political game would make him join its
policies, and finally that he was likely to focus more on the worries of the
average Israeli on an economic and social level, rather than revive the
negotiations on which he sees eye-to-eye with the previous government regarding
Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
And overall, what worried most was
that the second important figure to rise in the elections was none other than
Naftali Bennett, which took the political scene further Right and thus left many
wondering if Israel had really moved to the Center, or whether it was the Center
that went Right.
I, and many others, stay mainly afraid the status quo
might not be tackled by the coalition Netanyahu will form if he focuses mainly
on Iran, while Lapid focuses mostly on his secular middle class agenda and
Bennett blatantly refuses the two-state solution and vows to pursue the
settlement policy with the open or silent approval of the rest.
this while the big elephant in the room that concerns Israel’s security and the
middle class’ burden on an economic level stays ignored by most: the
At a time when Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials
warns of a possible third intifada if the government doesn’t change its policy
in the West Bank and when the escalation of violence with Gaza seems to be
pre-programmed almost to every four years, the clock is ticking and is pointing
to the last hours for Israel and Palestine to challenge their mistrust and the
common mistakes of the past to find a long-term solution to the conflict, before
they both reach a point of no return that would hurt their aspirations for
security, peace and freedom.
The writer is a French-Moroccan Law and
Political Science student, a member of the Steering Committee of the YaLa -
Young Leaders movement for change in the Middle East & North Africa, and a
Feminist Activist. She is currently living in Paris.