Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Change in Israel?

I've written recently about the possibility of a real sea change in attitudes in this country.  I haven't been following internal Israeli politics that much lately, but it looks like things might be changing there too.  Here's a bit from a story at Talking Points Memo:

"...everyone has been operating on the premise that the Israeli polity is locked on the right or center-right and just getting righter.  But the results didn’t bear that out.

Support for the consolidated party of the right, Likud-Beitenu dropped dramatically. And the big picture is that the ‘right’ only seems to have won the barest of majorities according to the early votes — 61 seats. Haaretz currently puts it this way.

Right - 43 seats.
Center-Left - 50 seats.
Ultra-Orthodox - 18 seats.
Arab Parties - 9 seats.

But this looks to be a very brittle coalition. Either one which has a single vote majority or one that puts together parties which just won’t be able to stay in a single coalition for long."

Maybe people in Israel too are getting fed up with the meaningless bluster that is all we ever get from the right.

Readers of Green Eagle may remember me mentioning that I had the opportunity to live for a while in Israel while working on a movie. Here is a little of what I learned:

First of all, like most Americans I habitually thought of the Jewish population of Israel as overwhelmingly made up of European refugees and their descendants.  Actually, before the influx of Russian Jews after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Israeli Jewish population was split about evenly between people of European descent and people who had been forcibly ejected from Arab countries after Israel's independence.  It will be hardly surprising that a large part of these people had a very negative attitude toward Arab governments.  These are the people who made up the bulk of the likud supporters- the great majority of European Jews were liberal, and voted that way.

I remember my first exposure to Netanyahu.  I immediately thought that he reminded me strongly of the jingoistic, self-serving, manipulative politicians that we in this country have come to expect from Republicans.  He seemed immediately familiar to me, but I don't think he was to Israelis.  First of all, Netanyahu represented a real change in Israeli politics.  Before him, virtually all Israeli politicians had participated in the fight for independence, and like our founding fathers, no matter how self serving some of the were, they all had a kind of commitment to the survival of the state which tempered their most extreme self serving instincts.  Israelis before Netanyahu were simply not ready to spot the total moral bankruptcy that we in this country have come to accept as an essential characteristic of right wing politicans.

More importantly, the half of Israeli Jews who were from Arab countries had had no experience whatever with the sort of detritus produced by democratic systems, and were totally incapable of seeing the deep cynicism that was barely papered over by the jingoistic rhetoric these people produced.  They were easy marks for right wing con men, and they fell under the sway of a guy like Netanyahu.

Maybe they are now waking up.  Yes, Netanyahu retains a one seat grip on power, but in the fractious world of Israeli politics that may not last for long.  This would be a great thing for the situation in the Middle East, and by denying American right wingers an ally in Israel, it would be good for us too.  Let's hope that things over there are improving, and lets hope that recent changes in attitude here can produce a better country for us too.

Update:  I see the final results of the Israeli election show Netanyahu with one less seat, meaning an essentially tied Knesset.  Not a perfect election result, but far better than anyone expected.

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