The messages from Israel’s election

Jewish Israeli voters have steadily turned away from liberal Zionism, preferring the “real thing.” (Matan Portnoy/Flickr)

Those of us who know the nature of the beast could not have been surprised by the results of the Israeli election.

Like many of my friends, I was also relieved that a liberal Zionist government was not elected. It would have allowed the charade of the “peace process” and the illusion of the two-state solution to linger on while the suffering of the Palestinians continues.

As always, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself provided the inevitable conclusion when he declared the end of the two-state solution — inviting us all to the long overdue funeral of an ill-conceived idea that provided Israel with international immunity for its colonialist project in Palestine.

The power of the charade was on show when the world and local pundits unrealistically predicted a victory for liberal Zionism, an Israeli ideological trend that is near extinction — embodied by the Zionist Union list headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

The exit polls compiled by Israel’s finest statisticians reinforced the wishful thinking, leading to a huge media fiasco as expectations of the “liberal” camp’s victory turned into shock and dismay over Netanyahu’s triumph.


It is worthwhile to begin an initial analysis of the Israeli elections with closer attention to this debacle.

An important segment of those who vote for Netanyahu’s Likud Party belong to the second generation of Jews who came from Arab and Muslim countries.

They were joined this time by settler communities in the occupied West Bank who voted as a bloc for Netanyahu. The Arab Jews voted for Likud much more than they voted for Netanyahu. The settlers did so at the expense of their new political base — Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party that promises outright annexation of the West Bank — so as to ensure that Likud would be the largest party in the next parliament.

Neither group was entirely happy with their choice and were not so proud to wear on their sleeves their decision to vote yet again for Netanyahu. That is perhaps why many of them did not admit to the exit polls who they really voted for.

The result was quite catastrophic for all the renowned pollsters. They missed the headline that should have been announced when the exit polls were done — a smashing victory for the Likud in 2015 and a disappointing result for the liberal Zionist camp. The more exciting news was the success of the Palestinian citizens of Israel who united to form the Joint List and won the third largest bloc of seats after the Likud and the Zionist Union.

Likud’s victory

The three outcomes — an invigorated Likud, a defeated Labor Party (the Zionist Union is a partnership of Labor and Livni’s “Initiative” list) and a united Palestinian representation — can either be ignored by the international community or serve as a catalyst for new thinking on the evergreen question of Palestine.

The victory of Likud, despite the social unrest in Israel over growing economic hardships, and the unprecedented low standing of the Jewish state in the international community, indicate clearly that there will be no change from within Israel in the near future.

Labor, meanwhile, has maximized its potential: it is not likely to do better and hence it does not offer an alternative. The main reason for this is that it is not an alternative. Israel in 2015 is still a settler-colonialist state and a liberal version of this ideology cannot offer a genuine reconciliation to the indigenous people of Palestine.

Ever since Likud took power for the first time after its historic 1977 victory, Jewish voters have preferred the real thing, so to speak, steadily turning away from the paler, liberal version of Zionism.

Labor was in power long enough for us to know that it could not offer even the most moderate Palestinian leaders any deal that would have granted them genuine sovereignty — not even in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which form only a fifth of historic Palestine.

The reason is very simple: the raison d’etre of a settler-colonialist society is displacement of the natives and their replacement by settlers. At best natives can be confined in gated enclaves, at worst they are doomed to be expelled or destroyed.


The conclusion for the international community should be clear now. Only decolonization of the settler state can lead to reconciliation. And the only way to kick off this decolonization is by employing the same means exercised against the other long-standing settler state of the twentieth century: apartheid South Africa.

The option of BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions — has never looked more valid than it does today. Hopefully this, together with popular resistance on the ground, will entice at least some of the second and third generation of the Jewish settler-colonial society to help stop the Zionist colonization project.

Pressure from outside and from the resistance movement within are the only way to force Israelis to reframe their relationship with all the Palestinians, including the refugees, on the basis of democratic and egalitarian values. Otherwise, we can expect Likud to win forty seats in the next elections, perhaps on the back of the next outraged Palestinian uprising.

There are two reasons why this approach is still feasible. One is the Joint List. It will have no impact whatsoever on the Israeli political system. In fact, like the Palestinian Authority, the days of Palestinian representation in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, are numbered. If a united list can have no impact, and if a disempowered PA does not satisfy even liberal Zionists, then the time has come to look for new forms of representation and action.

The Joint List’s importance lies elsewhere. It can ignite the imagination of other Palestinian communities about the possibilities of unity of purpose. That Islamists and secular leftists can work together for a better future is an example that can have far-reaching implications not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for an increasingly polarized Europe. The Joint List represents a group of native Palestinians who know the Israelis well, are deeply committed to democratic values and have risen in importance among the rest of the Palestinians after years of being marginalized and almost forgotten.

The second reason for hoping that new alternatives will emerge is that despite all its nastiness and callousness, the Zionist settler-colonial project was not the worst in history.

With all the horrendous suffering it has caused, most recently during the summer massacre in Gaza, it did not exterminate the local population and its dispossession project remains incomplete. This does not mean that it will not get worse or that one should underestimate the suffering of the Palestinians.


What it means is that the main impulse among Palestinians is not for retribution but for restitution. Their wish is to live normal lives — something Zionism denied all the Palestinians ever since the ideology’s arrival in Palestine in the late nineteenth century.

Normal life means an end to the discriminatory apartheid policies against the Palestinians in Israel, the end of the military occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and recognition of the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.

The quid pro quo is accepting the Jewish ethnic group that emerged in Palestine as part of a new, decolonized and fully democratic political dispensation based on principles that would be agreed on by all concerned.

The international community can play a positive role in bringing this vision about if it adopts three basic assumptions. The first is that Zionism is still colonialism and hence anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism but anti-colonialism.

The second is that if it leaves behind the exceptionalism it granted Israel over the years, mainly in the realm of human rights, it has a better chance of playing a constructive role towards safeguarding these rights in the Middle East as a whole.

And finally, we should all be aware that the window of opportunity for saving innocent lives in historic Palestine is rapidly closing — if Israel’s power remains unchecked a repeat of the massacres of recent years is all but certain. It is urgent to forsake old formulas for “peace” that did not work and start looking for just and viable alternatives.

The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.




No more hiding behind a phony 'peace' process for Israel, they've exposed themselves for being a racist, apartheid state that doesn't want peace with Palestine.
Not that it will have any effect on the sold-out, corrupted US Congress who never tire of licking Israeli you-know-what.


Change will not come via the Knesset but making use of the Knesset as part of the process is important. In other words the time for Arab participation towards equal rights for all in the Knesset has come. With 14 representatives fully backed by the now internationally recognised legitimate and Amnesty trained armed wing of Hamas, the Knesset will be used as another weapon in the struggle for equal rights. Isreal will have to change, not because of debate in the Knesset, but rather because of BDS and the outside world recognising that Israel is in Contravention of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. The International Criminal Court will play an important role. Palestine has agreed to the rules of that Court. The United Nations will play an increasingly more important role now that Isreal has sent out a very significant but loud and clear signal to the world that it is more interested in territorial gains than in human rights.


The US Congress is bought and paid for by various zionist entities. Tom Cotton, the writer of the 47's letter to Iran, received $700,000 from APIAC and nearly a million dollars from Bill Kriston's zionist organization. It's hard to fight that kind of money with simple righteousness when the corruption level is as high as it is in the American Congress. President Obama does not control the spending, but he does control the US's vote on the Security Council and we may very well see an end to the automatic vote to protect Israel after this.


It is not sufficient only to rejoice Netanyahu's win because it exposed Zionism's real intentions. We must also rejoice its exposure of the hypocricy of Israel's western allies who continue to support this colonial-settler state.


Nobody should be intimidated anymore by phony charges of anti-Semitism for criticizing Israel. Israel is a pariah state engaged in crimes against humanity on a massive scale. The Palestinians should be supported and helped through the BDS movement. This is simple, Palestinians are the victims and Israel is the aggressor.


In order to become a new party in Israel, the leader of the new party must sign an agreement that the new party accept Israel as a Jewish state

This fact does not allow a real left wing party


The reality of Dov's statement strikes any rational person as being absurd, but his statement is true whether you like it or not.


This excellent article does not confront the major flaws of analyses.

Power and those backing power does not retreat or "transform". That has been
the history over the centuries. How wonderful it would indeed be if the US and
the West in their imperial majesty abruptly became anti-Zionist. I am not making a "guess" but a rather solid prediction that this will never happen.
It is the nature of power and the powerful to defend themselves. They will use
every means necessary.

I support BDS but I simultaneously recognize the historical development of of
capitalism in the West and particularly in the US. Demonstrations of any
"grassroot" of your choice will not transform the multinationals, the weapons
lobby, and the encouragement of policies that do the opposite of what their labels proclaim .

Those of us who oppose brutal oppression and policies of genocide eagerly share with Illan Pappe and others the need for a belief in a world of freedom.

In the US civil rights struggles of fifty years ago we sang of "freedom". We marched. We went to jail and sang that "we shall overcome" and "we are not afraid".

Today in other forms racism continues in the US and it sounds like it is increasing. The profits of the wealthy are more and more predominant.
WE were not afraid but we did NOT overcome!

We must not "play games" before we understand power, its history and accumulation as well as how it operates. The powerful are more than able
to defend themselves against any opposition. Yes, BDS is an excellent beginning but we have a long way to go on our journey.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA


Well put, Dr. Pappe.
People in Israel/Palestine need to figure out one thing, just one thing:
Human beings are of equal basic worth and have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their ethnicity or what bullshit religious narrative they obsess over.
I hope that the bullshit about a two-state "solution" or a "peace process" will finally be buried after this recent Israeli election. It's been obvious for decades that both of these memes are just lies.
The real issue is whether Israel will manage to "transfer" the native Muslims before they formally annex the West Bank, or whether they'll be forced to annex it *without* a "transfer".
Non-Jewish residents of Israel/Palestine should have called for a one-state solution ages ago. It was only their own racism that prevented them from doing so.
Fun fact: The Jews aren't going to be driven into the sea. The colonial project was largely a success. The Jews are in Israel to stay. Now it's time for both sides in this interminable, tedious, racist, religion-obsessed, bullshit conflict to get over themselves and recognise each other's common humanity.
The rest of us - the rest of the people on this planet - are so, so, so done with this crap narrative of hatred and racism and religious arrogance. Get the fuck along, kids. No side of this game is any more or less beloved of whatever God may or may not exist.
The rest of the world isn't interested in seeing a huge murderous war result from this childish inanity. We don't want to see Iran bombed and slaughtered, and we don't want to see AIPAC con the US army into another adventure in the Middle East, and we're completely tired of bullshit Islamist nuttiness about infidels and burning in hell and all that crap. Just calm the fuck down. All of you.
The only viable solution at this point is a one-state solution. Gaza can become an independent city-state. The West Bank is already a part of Israel. Make it official. SOON. SOON, okay?


To J. Zimmerman:

Palestinians DID call for a one-state solution "years ago". It was in 1946 I believe.
It was IMMEDIATELY rejected by Israel and the US. It is not particularly mysterious
that no one knows about it!!!

Perhaps...just perhaps.,. the Zionists were not at all interested in sharing anything
at all. (The proposition called for this in a basic constitution.) In line with their
settler colonialization, Zionists were exclusively interested in a JEWS ONLY state
where Jews controlled everything. This was "achieved" by bloody conquest
and continues today. (See Michael Prior CM, THE BIBLE AND COLONIALISM:

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA


The persistent nuancing of specificity is an insulting, hypocritical, and blatant avoidance in a world visibly run by the industries of war. The fair conclusion for the end of the 20th century appears to be that honesty, compassion, mutuality of consciousness, respect for humanity as a family, and the full measure of claims to sincerity on the part of what rules the world have all died.
All supposed governmental order consistently refuses to even acknowledge the reality of the wide variety of vivid opportunities for building ends to antiquated forms of hatred. There is no willingness present to forward good health. Violence is the only sanctified methodology. The vividity of such shameful conditions only constructs the reality of that indifference which fully eviscerates all official claims to human civilization.


it says something about the strength of your convictions that the comment I left yesterday-which was in defense of Israel and was not kind to the author of this piece, but was thought out, reasonably clever and in no way obscene-was not allowed through


The tactic itself although I don't agree with ,I respect it.I have a problem the objectives :- right of return,unconditional return to the 1967 line etc.The is assumption is with enough pressure from BDS Israel will capitulate and agree to all its demands.The thing is BDS to Israel is an external threat which is not of a military nature. Methods of coercion which don't include military action have their limitations.The perfect example of the limitations of BDS is SOUTH AFRICA(surprise,surprise).

Yes the Boycott movement was effective in bringing the Apartheid Regime to the negotiating table with the ANC(a terrorist to them) and extracting concessions with regards to the political rights of the blacks.Despite the Boycotts,civil unrest and a domestic insurgency,There is one thing the White South Africans never agree to.That is the equitable distribution of land.They resolutely refused,that is why today in South Africa despite the fact Whites only make 9% of the population.They own close to 70% of all the land in South Africa(You can google this).The unequal distribution of land is a direct consequence of Apartheid.This clearly shows the limitations of BDS.

This notion that with enough BDS pressure.Israel will capitulate,pull its forces back to the 1967 lines unconditionally,give up the Jewish State and open the gates to 5 million Palestinian refugees is not only unrealistic it's DELUSIONAL.It is not going to happen.


Anyone who as followed the statements of the leadership of the so-called anti-Zionist Joint List must realize that they are pathetic and impotent. Especially Ayman Odeh. He sounds like warmed-over Mahmud Abbas or Marwan Barghouti. Always pandering to prove to the Zionist Massa that the Palestinians are not "savages." It's pathetic. Happily Zionism will collapse under its own idiotic weight, and it won't be thanks to this new setup of the Palestinian politicians in the Knesset like Ahmed Tibi who loves to cozy up to Herzog and the rest. At least Palestinians in 1948 lands should learn that they cannot benefit from this game to soften the image of Zionist apartheid by proving to the world that they "have 13 seats in the Zionist democracy"......