Reality Gets a Vote in Israel

If you’re looking for evidence that not all election results are terrible, and not every political culture is sliding back in the wrong direction, look to the result of the election in Israel.

The Israeli political system is still very messy, not least because they have one of those crazy parliamentary systems with a half-dozen splinter parties—precisely what our Founders sought to avoid. I wouldn’t trade my position for theirs, at least not yet. But what is important is the trend in Israeli politics, which is going in the right direction.

Dan Ephron mourns the fading cultural and political impact of Israel’s kibbutzes, which have been sliding into irrelevance for decades. This is a huge positive development.

The kibbutzes were so closely associated with Israel’s founding that they fused collectivism into the country’s soul, as if Thomas Jefferson had lived on a hippie commune instead of at Monticello. Yet this has not turned out to be permanent, and that has a big influence on the country’s political culture. As an Israeli political scientist tells Ephron, “The kibbutzim had two things: egalitarianism and the peace issue. Israelis have lost interest in both.” Good for them.

That brings us to the “peace issue.” The “peace process” of “land for peace” negotiations with the Palestinians has dominated every Israeli election for decades. But not this one. A review of the winners and losers in the election—which includes the final extinction of the squishy, unprincipled “centrist” Kadima party—concludes:

These were the first Israeli elections since the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel’s conflict with its Arab neighbors (and with the Palestinians in particular) did not figure prominently in the public debate. While the relatively strong showing of the center-left parties is good news for potential concessions on the peace front, it’s worth noting that the only two parties that emphasized the issue—Meretz and Livni’s Movement—won a combined 14 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

One commentator even gets a little carried away and projects that Benjamin Netanyahu and his center-right coalition will now seek to annex the West Bank.

In the Israeli election campaign that culminates on Jan. 22, the idea of uprooting West Bank settlements, ending the 45-year military occupation, and making way for a Palestinian state has been pushed off center stage. It’s now the preserve of marginal candidates in the multiparty electoral system, artist and intellectual types, and the octogenarian figurehead president, Shimon Peres. A new idea has risen to take its place: More than ever, popular voices are calling for Israel to annex the bulk of the West Bank, which is the primary territory of a would-be Palestinian state.

But this article does succinctly explain the reason why the “land for peace” camp is failing.

The reasons for the Israeli peace camp’s disintegration are clear. The bus bombings of the Second Intifada killed the public’s belief in negotiations; then the rockets from Gaza that followed the 2005 “disengagement” from the strip killed their belief in unilateral withdrawal. As far as the Jewish majority is concerned, that leaves only one solution—managing the conflict with military force. That is what Netanyahu has done, and he has been able to keep a lid on the situation.

Or as Yoaz Hendel sums it up, reality has pushed Israel to the right.

It has long been the function of Israel to be strong when we are weak, and I think that is part of their appeal to the American public. While we had Vietnam and Jimmy Carter and the Iranian hostage crisis, they had the Six Day War and the Raid on Entebbe. Now, in the Obama Era, while we’re seeking to slough off as many military commitments as possible, they have decided not to give peace a chance, after all.

This is a source of comfort to us in our current situation, not just to know that there is someone else to be resolute when we are wavering, but also to know that reality gets a vote, and eventually the public will wake up to the repeated and obvious failure of the left’s policies.

In America, that can’t happen a moment too soon.



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