The bad news from Israel’s election on 2 March is that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s right-wing prime minister since 2009, increased his score slightly in this third poll since Israel hit electoral deadlock in April 2019.
Netanyahu openly trades on hostility to Israel’s 20% Palestinian minority, and, in line with Donald Trump’s “plan”, pledges to formally annex to Israel much of the 80%-Palestinian West Bank. He also talks of “transferring” some Palestinian-majority areas of Israel into the patchwork quasi-semi-demi-autonomous “Palestinian state” which the Trump plan promises.
The good news is that Netanyahu still didn’t win a majority. Much of the anti-Netanyahu majority is really as right-wing as Netanyahu himself, but all of it is fixedly hostile to Netanyahu, who is due to stand trial for corruption starting on 17 March.
That gives us more time to build up the necessary mobilisation against annexation, against the occupation of the West Bank, against the blockade of Gaza, and for solidarity with democratic movements in Israel like Standing Together and the demand for a real independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
There will now be further haggling about possible coalition governments, with Netanyahu meanwhile as caretaker prime minister, as since April 2019. There may even be a fourth election.
A video shortly before the 2 March election had six former heads of Shin Bet and of Mossad, Israel’s equivalents of MI5 and MI6, telling voters how dangerous Netanyahu is. Much of Israel’s military top brass, for its own reasons and from its own angle, does not want annexation, and that may give us a little further time.
The Covid-19 emergency may delay drastic moves, too.
There is as yet little mobilisation in the West Bank against the threat, but Standing Together is campaigning hard inside Israel.
Currently it has a petition calling for Netanyahu’s main right-wing opponent, Benny Gantz, to form a coalition government including the 15 members from the heavily-Palestinian Joint List elected to the Knesset (parliament) on 2 March, the largest ever such contingent.
“We demand that Benny Gantz… reach understandings with the deputies chosen by the overwhelming majority of Arab citizens, and do everything required to end the era of racism and incitement”.
This makes little sense as we can see it. Standing Together’s aim is to link the causes of Palestinian self-determination alongside Israel, equal rights within Israel, and social agitation. Gantz has endorsed annexation of the Jordan Valley and is as right-wing as Netanyahu on social issues.
To help open up more radical alternatives, we need to build an international movement of solidarity for two states and equal rights.