There’s Nothing Left
The results of the Likud party primaries last week did not surprise anyone, except maybe Prime Minister Netanyahu. Likud’s rising stars reclaimed their top positioning in their party’s candidate list for the upcoming elections, as several new stars gained a real chance at becoming members of the Israeli Knesset. Hardliners and rightist elements in the party were strengthened, while more moderate elements were ousted. Together with Avigdor Lieberman’s list of candidates, the Likud is presenting the most rightist list it has ever gone to elections with.
The media in Israel has decided to focus on the trends taking place within the Likud party, but I am of the opinion that the new structure of this candidate list can perhaps give us a glimpse at more general trends within Israeli society, specifically – the gradual shift of Israeli public opinion to the right.
I see the mid 90’s as the starting point. At first, Rabin’s assassination seemed to strengthen the left, as public opinion sympathized and backed Rabin’s successors. The right feared to be in any way associated with the elements behind the assassination, so it tried desperately to disassociate itself from any rightist symbol or proponent.
But this was only a short-term effect. As the Oslo Accords began to dissolve, the various leftist parties began to find themselves under ferocious attack by leaders of the right who found reborn affirmation of their pre-assassination views. The Al Aqsa Intifada, and the various military conflicts since, only grounded this process. The Israeli public opinion, as it always does while “under fire”, began to turn to the right.
Advocating the peace process is extremely hard amongst a growingly hawkish and hard line crowd. As far as some rightist elements in Israeli society are concerned, to hold dovish views is tantamount to being a traitor -you can’t call yourself a real Zionist if you believe in a two state solution or if you don’t support a ground invasion into Gaza. Attacking and antagonizing minorities, or blaming them for being a 5th column, has become a popular trend, as members of Knesset factions compete on the number and nationalist – bordering on fascist – nature of the laws they bring forward for legislation.
The long term effects of Rabin’s assassination are therefore, the marginalization and de-legitimization of the Israeli left, and the growing emergence of rightist and nationalist elements, two parallel processes that culminated in the fact that no one in Israel dares to utter the word “Peace” anymore, let alone the words “Oslo Accords”.
Another factor accentuating these trends is the growing apathy and escapism amongst the upper and middle-class sectors that the Israeli political left is typically affiliated with. This apathy is reflected by the decrease in political involvement, especially as compared with their political opposites. Nationalist and rightist activists are renowned for their political activism and high turnouts at polls.
All of this does not bode well for the left in the coming elections. The huge turnouts for the 2011 social demonstrations are long forgotten as most of the participators have returned to their slumber. It seems that only a catastrophe or strong leadership will help change these trends. Unfortunately, as things stand now, it seems the former is more likely than the latter.