Should the position of the US administration towards the results of the Israeli elections be determined under the prism of Bibi’s statements during the last day of the campaign, or should it take a more insightful approach in order to reach conclusions that will better help understand and deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
It seems clear that if the personal rift between Obama and Netanyahu is not amended, nothing positive will happen in the Middle East during the last 22 months of Obama’s administration. If anything, we should brace ourselves for some rough times.
The Obama administration should take a step back, leave aside personal grievances and pay attention to the following three key facts demonstrated by the Israeli elections:
First, the media and the Obama administration should applaud the fact that this election showed the strength of Israel’s democracy: Israel had 5,881,696 registered voters, of which 4,253,336 participated in the election. Discounting null votes, 4,209,467 had their vote count. This makes for 72.36% voters turnout. In the last 70 years, US voters’ turnout for a presidential election hovered between 50 and 60%, with the last election having a 54.9% turnout. Germany had a 70.8% , UK had 48.3% and the only western country with a voter turnout higher than Israel’s was France in the last elections with 80.2%.
Second, Israeli-Arab participation in the elections was ten percent higher than in the previous election. Voters from 134 Arab towns, villages and tribes represented a 63.88% turnout according to numbers I gathered from the results issued by the Israeli Electoral Committee. My numbers do not include Arabs living in predominantly Jewish cities. However, the Abraham Fund Initiative, a not-for-profit organization working to promote coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens confirmed to me that their initial assessment was a 63-64% voters turnout for the overall Arab-Israeli population. What is interesting to note is that 80.8% of them voted for the Arab Joint List, while 17.64% voted for Zionist parties. More than half of those that voted for the Zionist parties (9.33% ) voted for right wing parties. In total, they elected 17 members to the Knesset, being that 13 of them are in the Arab Joint List, while Bibi’s Likud, Herzog’s Zionist List, Liberman’s Party and Meretz each have one.
Third and final point: contrary to what many analysts say, the main concern of the majority of the Jews in Israel is not the economy, but security and the Jewish character of the state. That’s what got Bibi reelected: 50% of the voters were associated with parties that stress those points, while 33% associated with the left, which stressed socio-economic issues. These numbers do not include Yesh Atid or Kulanu, as they both emphasize the social-economic aspect, but both, in their platform, stress Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, and share the vision of security arrangements proposed by the Likud. Therefore, in any combination of parties, Bibi’s vision of security for Israel would still prevail.
In conclusion, the election showed that Israel is a vibrant democracy where both Arabs and Israelis have their say. If the United States wants to help facilitate peace, it needs to leave aside Obama’s personal quarrels with Netanyahu and have a better read and respect of Israel’s voters’ concerns.