Early elections increase indicators of an existential threat to Israel

Anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem (Yonatan Sindel - Flash9)

Adnan Abu Amer

Middle East Monitor  /  January 16, 2021

With the start of the fourth early elections in Israel, the political scene is witnessing unprecedented rifts and disputes. This could result in the surfacing of an unexpected electoral turnout due to the divisions within the Israeli right and left wings, and the internal differences between party members affiliated with the various political currents. Thus, the Israelis are concerned about a possible internal fragmentation emanating from this chaotic situation.

As the countdown to the election campaign was launched, the Israeli partisan and political circles propelled a stern attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, describing him as a fraud ready to sell out the state in exchange for his political and personal interests. As a result, increasing pressure will be placed on him as the election campaign continues, which could lead to ending the political career of a failed, criminal, and deceitful prime minister such as the controversial and unscrupulous Netanyahu.

Recently, most of Netanyahu’s supporters concluded that he is a fraud who will do anything to maintain his political and personal presence, even in exchange for selling out the state. These ideas are not only put forth by the prime minister’s political opponents but also adopted by the Likud party, which constitutes a major change. Nevertheless, members of the Knesset will work to intensify and solidify this train of thought.

On the other hand, the Israeli parties taking part in the fourth elections have shown that they are heading towards abandoning the primaries because they struggle to find a way through complex political paths and adapting to the “giant ego” controlling them.

In less than a month before closing the electoral lists, political party figures in Israel are slowly losing momentum in favour of rabbis and respected personalities, who have a more substantial presence in the scene than the partisan institutions and members. Even the Likud party, which has always boasted about being the “only true democratic party” in Israel, has given up the primaries based on Netanyahu’s proposal.

This move means that Likud has stepped over its constitution, which stipulates that primaries must be held before each election campaign. This is the third time that the party has violated this rule because Netanyahu wants to maintain the loyalty of the party members and fears his eternal rival Gideon Sa’ar, who left Likud and founded the New Hope party while managing to attract several party leaders to join him. Thus, with the approaching date of closing the electoral lists (4 February), Likud will find it hard to practically cancel the decision to skip the primaries.

Likud was not the first party to skip the primaries. The Israeli Labour Party also abandoned this democratic measure when party leader Amir Peretz decided that he would not run for elections to democratically keep his position. Instead, he chose in recent weeks to rally all the leaders of the left-wing to inherit the party leadership in a quick and swift electoral process, while securing support for the next presidential race.

It has become clear that the coronavirus crisis and the subsequent lockdown have provided the final excuse to suspend internal democratic procedures, due to the imposed restrictions and prohibition of public gatherings. Consequently, holding a real electoral campaign has become impossible, as the political parties have been trying to avoid what they think are unnecessary expenditures that make it hard to appear in the spotlight during the economic crisis. However, this reality provides no real justification for the ongoing disputes in Israel.

In the last decade, no Israeli party has adopted an internal democratic system. Instead, the partisan leaders have adopted a new way of forming parties in a way that is similar to establishing a private company. In this case, we have a long and detailed list of political personalities in Israel who employed the same approach, starting with Avigdor Lieberman, Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon, Tzipi Livni, Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Gantz, Ehud Barak, Naftali Bennett, and Ayelet Shaked. All of them rose to power and then fell along the way.

Amid the current Israeli elections, no less than seven Israeli parties are competing for the votes of the centre-left alone, in addition to the Meretz and Israeli Labour Party. Thus, not long ago, the left’s dream of holding open primaries to determine who should run against Netanyahu was vanquished by the private companies model. In the coming weeks, the election results will be determined by the impact and power of opinion polls, rather than through holding primaries and implementing the party mechanisms.

These developments have created a rift between the poles sharing the Israeli political arena, to the point of threatening to engage in open confrontation due to the increasing state of arrogance, eternal bragging, and the claims of each party and its leader of possessing an exclusive cure for all of Israel’s problems.

A new indicator set forth by the fourth early Israeli elections shows a set of differences between the Israeli generals who have succeeded in politics in the past, and their current counterparts. This may herald the end of the era of generals in Israeli politics, following the announcement of Gabi Ashkenazi’s early retirement, and the confirmation of former Army Chief Gadi Eisenkot that he will not join any party list. In addition, he disclosed the fact that Defence Minister Benny Gantz will not manage to obtain the decisive rate of votes in the elections.

Two years ago, the Blue and White party headed by former Army Chief of Staff Gantz and Lapid, who were later joined by two other chiefs of staff, Ya’alon, and Ashkenazi, was seen as the most prominent alternative to Netanyahu. But only two years later, Ashkenazi announced that he would take a break from politics, and Gantz’s failed to boost his popularity according to polls.

The failure of Israeli army leaders shows how poorly the army generals understand the “DNA” of partisan politics, because the only responsibility they held was in the army, though the question is why generals such as Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ehud Barak succeeded in politics for several years.

In the past, Israeli generals were partially involved in politics while performing their military duties – a very unhealthy phenomenon. Today’s officers are different, and rather spend all of their time in the army, so it may not be appropriate for the army commanders to jump straight into the second or first place in the party’s election lists upon their retirement from the army. Because of this, it would be more appropriate for them to be in the third or fourth places.

All previous indications hold signs of an existential threat to Israel that lies mainly in a social peril that the Israelis themselves bear, because Israeli politicians, including the army generals today, worship lies, deceit and tricks, and try to hinder the political process at any cost. Hence, whoever tries to stand up to them becomes the focus of their scorn – the biggest blow to Israeli society today.

Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza