Millennium Post

Netanyahu’s win is a reality check for liberal Israelis

Netanyahu’s win is a reality check for liberal Israelis
Israeli liberals woke up after national elections with a demoralising feeling: Most of the country, in a deep and possibly irreversible way, does not think like they do. There had been a sense of urgency among moderate Israelis, and even an ounce of hope, that widespread frustration with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s six straight years in office would lead voters to pull Israel away from what they perceive as its rightward march toward international isolation, economic inequality, and a dead end for peace with the Palestinians.

But as the results trickled in on Wednesday, they showed Likud with a shocking lead that has all but guaranteed Netanyahu a third consecutive term. Netanyahu called it a victory “against all odds.” The liberals’ optimism has been replaced with devastation, an infuriating belief that the masses may never understand that logic shows the current path is suicidal. “Drink cyanide, bloody Neanderthals.
You won,” award-winning Israeli author and actress Alona Kimhi wrote on her Facebook page, before erasing it as her comments became the talk of the town. “Only death with save you from yourselves.”

Such rage rippled through liberal Israel this week. Social media was full of embittered Israelis accusing Netanyahu’s supporters of racism, and some vowed to stop donating charity to the underprivileged whom they perceived as being automatic supporters of the right. The prime minister’s main rival denounced such attacks. “Attempts to divide, vilify and spread hate in Israeli society disgust me, and it doesn’t matter whether it comes from the right or the left,” wrote Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on Facebook.

The anger was about far more than the election, reflecting a larger and more dramatic battle for the face of the country.  Israel’s founding fathers were Jews of Ashkenazi, or eastern European, descent and the ideological predecessors of the Labor party, the main faction in the rebranded Zionist Union. The left led the country for its first three decades until Likud, heavily backed by working class Jews of Mizrahi, or Middle Eastern, descent, gained power in 1977.

The Labor Party returned to the helm in the 1990s, leading the first efforts at peace with the Palestinians. But the Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s saw the return of hawkish rule, which in one form or another has lasted till today.

The day after elections, columnist Ben Caspit wrote an article in the Yediot Ahronot daily titled “Two States.” He was not referring to the left’s two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to Israel’s own cultural divide. “Israel is split, between left and right, between Bibi and anti-Bibi, between aspirations for normalcy and aspirations for territory,” Caspit wrote, using PM’s nickname.


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