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Political oddities in Israeli elections


Current Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue &

The results of Israel's parliamentary elections held on 17,  have not been officially released until we go online here.  However,  the results carry quite a few curious factors..  As the biggest military force in West Asia,  political changes in Israel are watched keenly by the world.  Also since the Palestinian issue is a major factor determining the course of world politics,  the political currents in Israel command attention.  

The main contest this time was between the far-right Likud Party led by Binyamin Netanyahu and the Blue & White alliance formed in February 2019 by three centrist/liberal parties.   Whereas Netanyahu faced the election on an emotional platform of pure racism and anti-Arab/Muslim sentiments,  the Blue and White Alliance adopted a softer and more secular political line but yet not deviating much from Israel's anti-Palestinian stance.  Although the Blue & White alliance has not been able to win an absolute majority with 33 seats and 25.9 per cent votes,  it has pushed the Likud lower with 31 seats and 25.1 per cent votes,  and thus to become a single bloc.   As opposed to the racist politics of Netanyahu,  the Blue & White alliance  faced the elections highlighting popular issues and problems in the lives of Israeli citizens.   In that sense the Israeli poll results are a rebuff to the rightist dream that it can cover up people's problems with racism alone.

But the most interesting aspect of the results this time is the political thrust achieved by  thje Joint List (Al-Qaaimah Al-Mushtaraka),  the alliance of Arab/Muslim parties.  Winning 10.5 per cent votes and 13 seats,  the alliance is becoming the third largest front in Isaraeli Knesset.  If the Blue & White alliance forms a government either in alliance with, or with the support of Likud party,  the Joint List will become the main opposition bloc.   And its leader Ayman Odeh will be elected the Opposition Leader,  a post with significant roles as per Israeli law.   He will then become part of the government protocol including weekly briefing with the prime minister and official meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries.  In a political system that treats Arabs by and large as anti-nationals and renegades,  it will be an odd picture if a party portrayed as being with traitors becomes a part of the official establishment.  It is the declared agenda of Joint List to  oust Netanyahu from power.  If they lend support to Blue & White alliance to meet that goal, and the latter accepts it,  that will present a still more curious political experience.   

Blue & White leader Benny Gantz and Ayman Odeh had held political discussions immediately after exit polls were out.  If that materialises as a government,  the status of an Israeli regime existing on the mercy and support of an Arab party will also be a strange spectacle.  But both Netanyahu and extreme-right nationalist Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party have called for a national unity government.   Given that, the prospects of a government with the support of Joint List are dim.   In either situation – a Joint List-backed government is formed or they become main opposition bloc – it will be an unusual political scenario. 

Israeli population consists of 21 per cent Arabs.   The majority of them are Muslims by religion and a small percentage is Christian. Although technically they are Israeli citizens and entitled to democratic political rights,  in practice they are a tortured minority increasingly being marginalised.

Due to consistent Israeli discrimination, the Israeli Arab community has been in a state of mistrust about the very democratic process.    But this time they took part in the elections with unprecedented zeal;  figures tell that 60 per cent of Israeli Arabs took part in the elections,  which is an all-time high and that when the overall average polling was only 69.4 per cent.   Although Netanyahu used several threats and tactics to keep Arabs away from voting,  they were in vain.  

Even on the side of Joint List, as an Arab political bloc,  presents its own oddities.  Joint List is a rainbow spectrum of the democratic, soft let party Balad,  the Marxist-Leninist party Hadash,  secular-Arab nationalist party Ta'al,  and the Islamist party United Arab List following the ideas of Muslim Brotherhood.   It is an unusual political mobilization of a people rising above dogmatic doggedness for the survival or a suppressed minority community.     Their message is that  the need of the hour is not keeping away citing political discrimination but intervening with better strategic diplomacy.   Viewed from that angle,  the Israeli election results also imparts some lessons for the Indian political context where a far-right party is marginalising minorities and implementing their agenda.

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