The Knesset list chosen by Likud party members this week was clearly more
hawkish and right-wing then the previous Likud line-up. Veteran politicians that
represented the more liberal stream in the party such as
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and
Minister- without-Portfolio Michael Eitan were ejected from realistic spots on
Likud’s shift to the Right appears to be a reflection of a
larger trend within Israeli society. While the party undoubtedly represents
opinions more right-wing than what can be considered “centrist” in Israeli
society, the Likud – after its merger with Yisrael Beytenu – stands to be by far
the most popular and, therefore, largest political party in the next Knesset.
And the Likud will most likely lead the next government coalition supported by
smaller right-wing parties.
Most – if not all – public opinion polls
conducted in recent months show that a right-wing coalition will once again lead
Israel after the January 22 elections.
Population trends are part of the
reason for Israeli society’s gradual but steady move to the Right in recent
years. The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population – which tends to be hawkish on
security and diplomatic issues – is growing fast. And as rabbinic leadership
becomes more fractured – particularly after the death of Rabbi Shalom Yosef
Elyashiv – we might be seeing increasing numbers of haredim voting for
non-haredi political parties. Religious Zionists are another segment of the
population with a high birth rate.
In addition, some three-quarters of
about one million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union who have arrived in
Israel since the late 1980s voted for either the Likud or Yisrael Beytenu in
These immigrants combine an aversion to left-wing
economics with a cultural affinity for ethnic nationalism.
The success of
the Right also has to do with its ability to adopt pragmatic diplomatic
positions first proposed by the Left – such as the two-state-solution – while at
the same time succeeding much better than the Left at adhering unabashedly to
the sorts of ideals shared by the vast majority of Israelis: That exclusively
Jewish immigration should be encouraged; that the Jewish people’s historical
homeland is rightfully in the biblical land of Israel; that uniquely Jewish
culture and tradition should be nurtured; that maintaining political
self-determination backed up by a strong military capability will help ensure
Jewish continuity in the face of anti-Semitism and the threat of
But while the Likud’s move to the Right is a democratic
reflection of the will of a majority of Israelis, we must be wary of undermining
other aspects of Israel’s democratic character. Some of the more right-wing
legislators in Likud and Yisrael Beytenu have proposed – and in some cases
passed – controversial legislation which we at The Jerusalem Post
One example was a bill that, if passed, would have taken away
the Supreme Court’s veto over justice appointments and transferred full
responsibility to the Knesset.
Thankfully, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, backed by Begin, Meridor and Eitan, torpedoed the measure, which
would have weakened the court’s autonomy and its ability to protect minority
rights and freedom of expression.
Another example was legislation passed
by the Knesset in July 2011 that gives individuals, institutions, and businesses
in Israel standing to sue those who implement or even advocate anti-Israel
Because it specifically singles out as illicit any boycott
aimed at those with an “affinity with the State of Israel,” the law is
unabashedly ideological and intended to punish only one way of thinking in
The right-wing coalitions that have dominated Israeli politics in
recent years – and which will probably continue to do so – are undoubtedly a
reflection of the will of the people.
But we must be careful of a
situation in which there is a “tyranny of the majority.” The rule of the
majority is just one aspect of a healthy democracy.
Careful protection of
minority rights, freedom of expression for all and a strong, independent
judiciary are no less important.