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Israel's constant: More extremism

Following the refusal of Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, to join what he described as the "opportunistic" coalition with Netanyahu, the prime minister resorted to forming a different coalition. Nevertheless, Lieberman may still agree to join Netanyahu's government at the last moment (the second deadline was Wednesday 6 May); though perhaps not. Due to purely internal partisan reasons, and based on the policy of blackmail in order to gain as many ministerial benefits as possible, the formation of a coalition government was stalled until the final moments before the end of the second deadline for the leader of the Likud Party. Of course, political moves had been increasingly taking place during the final days before the deadline.

From the beginning, I was suspicious of the analyses that predicted Netanyahu's failure to win the top votes in Israel's legislative elections. In the end, Likud earned 30 seats in the Knesset – in other words it achieved an overwhelming majority. The contrasting predictions (which were the opposite to the opinion polls conducted by Israeli newspapers and institutes, which only have a 2-3 per cent margin of error) did not come about by fortune telling or astrology, but were made in accordance with the shifts in Israeli public opinion over the past two decades. In particular, the shift towards extremism in the beliefs and behaviour of the Israeli public; this is due to the fact that a number of elements were present in fertile soil conducive to the growth of such extremism.

On the other hand, some Arab political analysts, as well as writers, journalists, and experts were preoccupied with the prospects of a "national coalition" government in Israel between Netanyahu and both the Labour and Kadima parties, led by Herzog and Tzipi Livni respectively. I had predicted that this would be impossible for many reasons, which I wrote about at the time. Netanyahu has succeeded in forming his fourth government (and third consecutive government) and this will be reflected on the Arab-Israeli conflict with more Israeli extremism and intransigency, contrary to the hopes many expressed for the success of a coalition amongst the "moderate trend" in Israel. Unfortunately, the differences between all of the parties mostly focus and revolve around policies relating to purely internal affairs.

As for the parties' differences regarding foreign policy, specifically with regards to their vision of the conflict and potential for settlement with the Palestinians, the truth of the matter is that they are marginal in terms of each party's position. Hostility towards the Palestinians and denial of all their national rights is the greatest common denominator that unites Israeli public opinion and all of its political parties. Most of them agree on the core of any settlement, i.e. self-governance stripped of any sovereignty for the Palestinians, but they differ in their roles on the stage. Some take soft political measures that purely serve the PR function of presenting Israel's willingness to achieve peace with no concrete substance. This is nothing more than farcical play acting. Since IUsrael's inception, every successive Israeli government has bred extremism and brutality; and until now, there is no true difference to distinguish the position of one party from the others. Nor is the term "left-wing" truly applicable in Israel; the fact that all parties are Israeli and Zionist does not allow the term "left-wing" to be applied to them. The only exception to this is the Palestine Communist Party.

Another fact is that during its term, we label every Israeli government as being "the most extremist" in comparison to its predecessor, which was labelled at the time as being the most extremist. We also do the same with American administrations, as we label each president as being the most loyal to Israel. The truth of the matter is that all Israeli governments are extremist and that their extremism stems from their adoption of Zionist ideology. On a political level, some Israeli leaders are careful to wear silk gloves to cover their iron fists, and use soft words – as if they love peace – but in truth, they are against the whole concept of peace. All of Israel's governments have adopted extremist and brutality since their inception. What distinguishes each government from the next is that the most extremist and fascist parties successively win more and more seats in the Knesset with every passing election. These characteristics have become Zionist constants, and if new elections are held two months after the new government is formed, given its fragility, these parties will achieve even more success in the next legislative elections.

We must be aware of the serious shift taking place in Israeli public and political consensus, and consider the potential dangers not only to the Palestinians, but the entire Middle East, with regards to their existence, fate, security, land and stability. We had better take note of this emerging trend and its implications rather than being preoccupied by the formation of any coalition in the next Israeli government.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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