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Vol. 79/No. 12      April 6, 2015

(lead article)
Israel vote marks political
openings for workers, Arabs

A strong vote for the Likud Party in the March 17 Israeli elections ensures the next government will continue to be led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The results reflect concerns of working people there that U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy makes the threat of attacks from Iran and the reactionary Islamist Hamas forces that rule Gaza more likely.

The election does not mark a turn to the “hard right” by Netanyahu, as shrill cries from Obama administration spokespeople, the New York Times editorial board and other liberal news media in the U.S. and Israel claim. Nor do they lessen the possibility of recognition of a Palestinian state. To the contrary, it is Washington’s course that increases the danger of instability and conflict in the region.

Negating a statement he made just before the elections, Netanyahu reiterated his stance March 19 in favor of a “demilitarized” Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Netanyahu called the election after his coalition split over a bill he backed that would give exclusive rights to Jewish citizens in Israel, a departure from Israel’s founding document that calls for “complete equality of social and political rights” irrespective of religion, even if often honored in the breach.

The election makes it less likely that Netanyahu will attempt to pass the reactionary bill.

While Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 30 seats, up from 18 in 2013, the total won by the so-called right wing is virtually the same as in the outgoing Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Likud grew primarily at the expense of its more extremist allies. The Jewish Home party, which backs expanding settlements in the West Bank, and Israel Is Our Home Party both lost seats.

An attempt to weaken Palestinian-based parties by raising the threshold of votes needed to be elected backfired. The parties formed an electoral alliance for the first time, the Joint List, spurring Israeli Arabs to vote in record numbers and increasing their seats from 11 to 14, the third largest bloc in the Knesset.

During a pre-election debate in Ibillin, Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel Is Our Home Party and Netanyahu’s foreign minister, asked Ayman Odeh, head of the predominantly Arab Joint List, “Why did you come to this studio, why not to Gaza, or Ramallah? Why are you even here?”

“I am part of the nature, the surroundings, the landscape,” replied Odeh, a member of the municipal council in Haifa, a mixed Arab-Jewish city.

Likud’s main opponent, the Zionist Union, composed of the Labor Party and Hatnuah, won 24 seats, three more than in 2013. The ultra-Orthodox parties lost 14 seats.

Netanyahu campaigned on the claim that he is the only one who can stand up to Iran. Obama and Netanyahu have clashed over Washington’s efforts to reach agreement with Tehran on easing imperialist sanctions in exchange for some limits on Iran’s nuclear program. Washington’s de facto alliance with Iran in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is no secret.

Obama did everything he could to influence the election, hoping Likud would lose. V15, a group led by Jeremy Bird, national field director for Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, spent millions to defeat Likud.

Obama didn’t call to congratulate Netanyahu until two days after the election, then chastised him for statements he made before the vote.

Washington says it is now considering what changes it will make in relations with Israel.

The Zionist Union agreed that the regime in Tehran is a threat to the existence of Israel and opposes permitting Iran to develop the ability to produce nuclear weapons. The union stated it supports “keeping the settlement blocs” in the West Bank, and maintaining Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of the state of Israel.”

The Zionist Union said it would “reignite the peace process,” though its leaders explained they saw no authoritative force on the West Bank or in Gaza with whom they could negotiate.

View from the left

Virtually the entire U.S. and Israeli petty-bourgeois left holds the view that a Netanyahu victory proves working people in Israel are hopelessly reactionary. Some were dismayed, others overjoyed at the result.

Gideon Levy, a columnist for the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz, heaped scorn on working people, writing that the election showed “the nation must be replaced,” and called for “general elections to choose a new Israeli people — immediately.”

The Times published a column March 18 by Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which supports the “Boycott, Divest and Sanction” campaign against Israel. “The biggest losers in this election were those who made the argument that change could come from within Israel,” Munayyer wrote. “It can’t and it won’t.”

He said he was glad, because if Netanyahu had lost, their boycott efforts would have been weakened.

Supporters of the boycott say it’s aimed at forcing Tel Aviv to end its control of the West Bank and its embargo of Gaza. But the campaign provides cover for Jew-hatred and calls to wipe Israel off the map.

Class struggle in Israel

The doomsayers and opponents of the existence of Israel are blind to the reality of the class struggle there.

About 20 percent of Israeli citizens today are Arabs; 10 percent are ultra-Orthodox Jews. There is a large immigrant worker component from Africa and Asia. In the midst of the worldwide capitalist economic crisis, working people there have gone on strike and joined protests together, demanding housing, a higher minimum wage and unions.

Recent developments in the labor movement inside Israel open up more possibilities for working-class unity. Some 2,500 child care workers — Arab, ultra-Orthodox Jews and secular Jews — held a one-day national strike Feb. 9.

Netanyahu has been widely criticized for a statement he released in the middle of the vote warning that Arabs were “being bused to the polling stations in droves” to spur his supporters to vote.

Netanyahu apologized in a March 23 meeting with Arab organizations. “I see myself as the prime minister of every one of you, of all Israeli citizens, without any difference of religion, race or gender,” he said

Proof that the election results will not stop actions for the rights of Arabs came quickly. Joint List head Ayman Odeh announced he will lead a four-day march beginning March 26 through Bedouin villages in the Negev to the residence of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. They are calling for the government to recognize 46 villages and provide needed infrastructure and social services. Rivlin said he would meet with them.
Related articles:
Class struggle road in Israel, Palestine
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