Israel’s Elections: Another “Hamastan”?

Many observers describe Israel’s political system as dysfunctional because its latest elections have likely produced a government hostile to the peace process.  These observers forget that Israeli voters themselves may have no interest in the peace process.  Otherwise, why the largest votes went to the three candidates who most stridently brandished their anti-Arab credentials?

No one figure emerged victorious, although what passes for “the left” in Israel certainly lost.  The rejectionist Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu (whose supporters had hankered for Yitzakh Rabin’s murder) must vie with the centrist Kadima’s Tzipi Livni (who helped launch the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza) for the affections of Avigdor Lieberman (who pines for the purging of Israel’s Arab citizenry) in order to form a coalition government.

All three have said that they will never negotiate if Hamas is included in a Palestinian government — and all three are committed to making sure that there is nothing left for Palestinians to govern.  Hamas, in contrast, doesn’t insist on any such preconditions regarding who is or isn’t included in the Israeli government.  It has also said it would support “a long-term truce with Israel along 1967 borders,” even as Israelis empower politicians who recognize no borders and continue the creeping colonization of the West Bank.

Nonetheless, few Western pundits have said that Israelis voted for terrorists or against peace — such impolite utterances only apply to the lesser races.  Instead, it is said that the Israelis voted “for security,” even though the brutal punishment meted out by the Israeli military always engenders resistance that makes such security an eternal illusion.  The idea that Palestinians might have security concerns of their own — indeed, much greater ones, judging from the carnage in Gaza — is scarcely considered.

If Israel applied to itself the standards by which it measures the Palestinians, the results might be illuminating: the indifferent, unmoved mass of Israelis who shrugged off the death of hundreds of Palestinian civilians because “they all voted for Hamas anyway” should expect a suffocating siege and a massive attack against themselves now that they, too, have voted for those with (much more) “blood on their hands.”

Of course, that will not happen.

As the late, prescient Israeli historian Baruch Kimmerling pointed out, Israel is an Herrenvolk democracy, maintaining one set of rules for its own “master people” and another set of rules for the “under people” whom it occupies and controls.

Most analysts will not concern themselves with these realities.  Instead, they will hone in on the details of how Israel’s selected politicians go about forming their government, like gamblers who follow a horse race.

This fixation, however, causes them to miss the main point: in choosing politicians who can scarcely conceal their desire to smash the Palestinians, Israelis have ensured that saner and more reasonable voices won’t even leave the stables.  As their country once again bets on the idea that it can subdue a people who have demonstrated matchless resilience, it is necessary to ask what in Israel is truly dysfunctional: its political system, or its society?

M. Junaid Levesque-Alam blogs about America and Islam at Crossing the Crescent and writes about American Muslim identity for WireTap magazine.  He works as a communications coordinator for an anti-domestic violence agency in NYC and can be reached at: junaidalam1 AT