The A-Z of Israel
On 22 January, Israelis will go to the polls. The world watches – but how much do we really know about the country that calls itself “the sole bastion of democracy” in the Middle East?
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
U is for Ultra-nationalist
For the second time in four years, Israeli ultra-nationalist parties will play a pivotal role in the creation of the central government, evidence of a shift to the right among the voters.
Following the February 2009 general election the centrist Kadima emerged as the party with the most seats in parliament but, with the help of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel is our home”) and a ragtag of other religious and secular right-wing political parties, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud was able to build a working coalition (see B for Bibi).
Yisrael Beiteinu campaigned under the banner “No loyalty, no citizenship”, a direct challenge to the 20 per cent of Israel’s population that is Arab (see Z for Zoabi, Haneen) to pledge allegiance to the Jewish state of Israel and commit to military service. The party’s support is underpinned by Russian immigrants whose nationalism can be traced to the European, secular Zionism of the 18th century (se O for Orthodox).
Four years on, Netanyahu is poised to win a third term as prime minister when Israelis vote on 22 January but, again, he will be dependent on the ultra-nationalists – and not just Yisrael Beiteinu, with which he entered into an electoral pact in October, but the emerging power Jewish Home, led by the 40-year-old Naftali Bennett. Jewish Home is on course to become the third-biggest party in the Knesset and Bennett will have leverage over those in power to ensure that his views are represented.
These views include the belief that peace between Palestinians and Israelis is impossible and that the two-state solution is undesirable. The best Bennett can offer Palestinians on the West Bank is self-government on 40 per cent of the existing land, or Israeli citizenship across the rest.
“I want the world to understand that a Palestinian state means no Israeli state,” he said in a recent interview.
As the status quo has become entrenched, aided by creeping settlement-building on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem (see W for Wall), many more Israelis are starting to share this view, however uncomfortable it might be for the rest of the world to hear it.