The Middle East and Israeli elections

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.

Police Tel Aviv election day 2013 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police Tel Aviv election day 2013 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
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 disagree.”
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 Israeli elections.
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.
Another channel 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 it.
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 Lapid.
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.
All of 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 conflict.
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.