Palestinians are literally a backdrop in this election. Nothing could be more symbolic of this than TV news channel 21 holding a live election broadcast, hosting leaders of major right-wing parties in a studio overlooking the Khan Al-Ahmar community, north-east of Jerusalem. The candidates lined up pledging the forcible transfer of the Palestinians living in that community, taking turns in attacking Netanyahu for so far failing to demolish the community.
We are a backdrop, denied basic rights and at the receiving end of hateful and violent policies, while Israelis cherish the process as a democratic achievement. The candidates present in that interview – Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope, Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism, and Naftali Bennett of Yamina – have accumulated nearly 20 seats in the upcoming Knesset, and are all expected to be part of the next right-wing government forming coalition.
This leaves us with nearly five million Palestinians, residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza, whose lives are under complete and total control by Israel’s military administration. What role do they play in this whole ‘democratic’ circus? Well, besides the Palestinian labourers printing more than 500 million of the Israeli election ballot slips in illegal West Bank settlement factories, their role is close to none.
An ‘undivided’ capital
Many among Israel’s Jewish population viewed this election as ‘Benjamin Netanyahu vs not Benjamin Netanyahu’. It was much less about Right vs Left politics, considering Right-leaning and “centrist” parties overwhelmingly dominate the scene.
When it comes to issues of settlements, annexation, and regional security, most parties predicted to form the next coalition are in seeming harmony. It was a surprise, however, that parties of the left, Meretz and Labor, had survived elimination. The parties are en route to win five and seven seats respectively, meaning they may be the biggest beneficiaries of the ‘Bibi vs Not Bibi’ election turnout.
Leader of the right-wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett is once again assumed to be kingmaker, with seven seats. Meanwhile, the Joint List has crashed down to six seats and is yet again irrelevant in coalition forming discussions. The same was true in the last round, when the Joint List was the third largest party in the Knesset, with 15 seats.
This is a damning statement of how anti-Palestinian sentiment dominates throughout Israel’s mainstream political scene. Major Zionist parties might mess around and flirt with Arab voters, yet avoid at all costs engaging them in serious coalition dealings.
We can also see here the result of Netanyahu’s devious scheming. He openly embraced anti-Arab politicians in order to strengthen his coalition, succeeding in helping them cross the threshold. Simultaneously, his campaign targeted voters in Arab communities, scheming with the Islamist United Arab Party, and causing a major loss for Palestinian Arab representation at the polls. Netanyahu’s actions had definitely wasted tens of thousands of Arab votes at the election as the Islamist United Arab Party split from the Joint List had significantly weakened both parties.
Netanyahu’s campaigning in Arab communities was surreal; in one video, he came out asking them to “Vote Likud, vote Abu Ya’ir”, promising direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mecca. And as he was making these promises we all know there are more hurdles obstructing Palestinians from praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, than there are to traveling to Mecca.
Israeli political leaders like to talk of Jerusalem as an ‘undivided capital’. Yet, half of the city’s population is denied the right to participate in elections, and is alone in facing threats of evictions and demolitions, while dealing with rampant poverty and lack of dignified living in most of our Palestinian neighbourhoods.
Israelis get to boast about going through another ‘democratic’ election, but in reality it is common knowledge to many today that an exclusive election, based on ethno-religious lines, is not a truly ‘democratic’ process. If anything, it reflects the law that rules the land between the river and the sea, that is apartheid.Print