Israel Elections: Why Netanyahu Will Lose Support For Being Too Moderate

Israel has been getting a lot of bad press recently. The United Nations’ recent move to recognize a Palestinian state was the latest in a growing trend of pressuring Israel to figure out their differences with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Slightly over a month remains until the Israeli elections, which should clarify whether the UN’s message was heard.

Based on current polls, it looks like Israel is hearing the rest of the world; the Israeli people just don’t like what they are hearing. Listening to the American press, the average American probably thinks that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu coalition was made up of hardcore right wing extremists: analogous to an administration of President Palin and Vice President DeMint. 

But, surprising as it may seem, in the upcoming elections, the Likud-Beiteinu coalition might be the new center. Parties which are surging in the Knesset elections are not Labor and Meretz; the surging parties are those which have historical ties to the settlers — parties like Jewish Home or Oztma (whose primary platform is its refusal to make any concession to Palestinians).

The UN’s recognition of a Palestinian state doesn’t appear to have affected Israel, other than to have made voters angry. The collapse of Kadima — until recently Israel’s dominant political party — is one of the signs of the times. When Israel feels isolated, it has little use for centrists and moderates. If current polls are any indication, Oztma might have a better chance of having a voice in parliament than the party of Ariel Sharon.

This anger is understandable. Even if Israel does have better weapons than the Palestinians, this doesn’t change the fact that in recent years the UN has been overly aggressive in pressuring Israel to make a peace deal that it has little power to make.

Frustrating as it is to see Israel’s dominant parties abandoning the idea of a two state solution, they are not the first to have abandoned this solution. Since they rejected UN Partition Plan of 1947, the Palestinian leadership has consistently passed on opportunities to create a comprehensive peace settlement with the State of Israel. And conditions aren’t getting better either: support for a two state solution among Palestine’s youth is falling apart.

If Palestine abandons plans for a long-term peace, it isn’t surprising that Israel should elect politicians who are equally committed to opposing Palestinian statehood. This might lead to Israel attempting to gain more autonomy from the U.S. and Europe, and instead to build coalitions with Asian democracies like India.

Electing as many ministers for the Jewish Home Party as the Labor Party might accelerate this transition. Will these new far-right parties create peace between the Israeli Knesset and Palestinian Authority? No, but, at this point, who can?