The Israel problem

I thought this Saletan piece on the recent Israeli elections made an important point:

In the final days of his campaign, Netanyahu pitched himself to Israelis as the candidate who would stand up toPresident Obama, “American money,” the “international community,” and Israel’s Arab minority. He bragged that he had used settlements to seize strategic Palestinian land, and he vowed to keep doing so. A day before the election, he renounced Israel’s commitment to a Palestinian state. He pledged that if he were re-elected, he wouldn’t permit such a state. He implored Jews to flock to the polls and drown out the ballots of Arab Israelis.

Many Americans, including me, thought these rants would hurt Netanyahu. We were wrong. In those final days, his support soared. On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s party, Likud, won a plurality of seats in Israel’s parliament. Thirty-three percent of Israelis voted for Likud or for smaller parties that officially rejected a Palestinian state. Another 15 percent voted for Jewish nationalist or ultra-Orthodox parties that have blocked Palestinian independence. A further 7 percent voted for a Likud offshoot that is expected to round out the new government. That adds up to more than 55 percent of the electorate. It’s more than 60 percent of Israel’s Jewish voters.

Netanyahu can no longer be dismissed as a rogue. He has proved that his people stand behind him. They have given him more seats in parliament than he had before and a more hawkish coalition of ruling parties. We don’t have a Netanyahu problem anymore. We have an Israel problem.

Yep.  I don’t claim to have a lot of expertise on this area, but after seeing a lot of headlines and such suggesting this is a Netanyahu problem, not an Israel problem, I’d have to say that Saletan seems pretty on target.  Saletan suggests that we need to change our policy positions of having Israel’s back “no matter what” if we expect Israel to change.  That also seems pretty hard to argue with.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The Israel problem

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    What the recent Israeli elections teach us is that fear is a very effective tactic to use to win elections. (Not that we didn’t already know this.)
    For Democrats that might mean that a strong attack on Republicans as would-be destroyers of Social Security and Medicare along with a focused plan to increase both would be a winning strategy. It’s worked before. It is true. It influences older people to fear the GOP as well as all families that have elderly members or members that are afraid of losing these benefits.Those with no pension to retire on other than Social Security might fear losing their last hope for any retirement resources. Seniors in particular often vote Republican and they could be peeled off toward the Democrats.
    Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and other progressives are already introducing plans to strengthen these programs. Soon it will be time for the fear part.

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