There’s this one similarity between Israel and South Korea – and I will go no further than this: neither younger Israelis nor South Korean care about the putative threats to their existence, Iran and the Palestinians, and the North Koreans, respectively. Like South Koreans, Israelis voted with their stomachs, as it were, in their respective elections.
This Israeli campaign, including that by Lapid, was notable mostly for what it did not emphasize. For the first time in decades, the question of Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors was not at the fore and the battle was not primarily between dovish leftists and hardline rightists. Instead, the fighting was done within the right-wing and center-left camps. To the end, Netanyahu mistakenly focused his efforts on competing with Jewish Home, not paying enough attention to Lapid’s ability to rally middle-class Israelis dismayed about issues such as the high cost of living, inadequate education, inability to buy affordable housing and resentful over longstanding draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox, something the premier perpetuated out of deference to his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.
It was these issues, and not Netanyahu’s hawkish policies such as rejecting Abbas’s demands for a settlement freeze, that catapulted Lapid to primacy. Had voters wanted to punish Netanyahu for his lack of a peace policy, it would have been translated into a strong showing for the former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who made renewing talks the only issue of her campaign. But her Hatnua party received only six Knesset seats.
Lapid’s rise is a relief for Americans worried about King Bibi’s neo con flirtation.
Amos Harel, defence correspondent for Haaretz, wrote: “With a coalition that will squint towards the centre, it seems the chances of an Israeli attack, one that is not co-ordinated with the Americans, are shrinking significantly. In the Iranian context, even though you won’t catch anyone among the top brass in the IDF admitting it out loud, you can bet that at the general staff there were many sighs of relief as the election results came in.”
But the Iranian-born analyst Meir Javedanfar predicted nothing would change. “Netanyahu’s stance is based on rhetoric, on threatening military action, as a way of maintaining international focus on the Iranian nuclear issue. The results of the election won’t change that. In any case, a decision to attack Iran is extremely unlikely to be taken in Jerusalem rather than Washington.”
The Israeli public, he added, did not want to “see a nuclear armed Iranian regime. But people don’t believe that the country is on the verge of annihilation. For Yair Lapid [whose party came second in the election], Iran is not a priority – and maybe that’s one reason why he did so well.”
Were those sighs reciprocated in the Pentagon and Langley I wonder?
And so, maybe there’s a chance for the peace process and the two-state solution? Gil Troyis cautious, but perhaps a grand coalition can teach Americans to trash the overblown “pro-Israel/’anti-Israel'” false choice.
If this election will only shut Netanyah up for a few weeks or months, it would be a blessing.