News Roundup: Israeli elections & prospects for a just peace

Welcome to the semi-regular MCC Ottawa Office News Roundup! It’s our opportunity to share news stories, reports and resources from various sources around the web, with the goal of providing more background information and context on the countries and themes where MCC and our partners are working. We also want to speak to the role and responsibilities of the Canadian government, highlight what MCC is doing, and outline how you can get involved! The articles are drawn from a variety of sources and do not necessarily reflect the position of MCC.

This roundup focuses on the dynamics and impacts of the recent Israeli elections and what the outcome may mean for long-term peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.

The Election Results

Israel elections: Netanyahu set for record fifth term as PM, Al Jazeera, April 10, 2019

On April 9 Benjamin Netanyahu made history winning a fifth term in a tight race under the Likud party and their coalition. Netanyahu won despite facing multiple corruption charges, scandals and running – yet again – a campaign steeped in fear. To strengthen his position further, Netanyahu also made last minute promises to annex the West Bank,

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The separation wall as seen in Bethlehem, the West Bank. (MCC Photo/Emily Loewen)

clearly articulating his vision for the long run. Netanyahu’s closest rival, and former Israeli military chief, Benny Gantz, claimed to be a “centrist” alternative, however, his position, when it came to relations with Palestinians, was essentially the status quo. Neither candidate seriously addressed long-term systemic injustices, especially the 52+ year Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The 2018 Nation State Law and the Implications for the Election and Beyond

Five ways Israeli law discriminates against Palestinians, Al Jazeera, July 19, 2018

In 2018 the Israeli Knesset passed the highly controversial Nation State Law, which arguably set the stage for much of the election rhetoric. This law aims to solidify Israel’s identity as a Jewish State, explicitly giving preference to rights and privileges of the Jewish population over other populations. However, for many critics, the Nation State Law simply consolidated and formally brought to light what was already taking place in practice through multiple other discriminatory laws, from access to leasing land, the Right of Return, and the commemoration of the Nakba. According to the NGO Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, there are over 65 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Palestinians within the Occupied Territories.

Election dynamics: rhetoric and voter turnouts

Whoever wins Israel’s election, result will be more of the same, Al Jazeera, March 22, 2019

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This street in Hebron, West Bank, was formerly a busy part of the city’s market, until it was cut off by the Israeli Military to make way for an illegal Israeli settlement in the city. (MCC photo/Elizabeth Kessler)

Much can be said of the tone and tactics of the 2019 Israeli election, particularly of frontrunners Netanyahu and Gantz. The bottom line was that neither electoral outcome was ever going to improve the realities for Palestinians, especially in the Occupied Territories. In fact, both frontrunners were in a competition of who would use stronger military force and tactics, especially on Gaza, all to win votes. Some of the most disturbing elements of the campaigns were clear and deliberate associations with and celebrations of violence, particularly against Palestinians. It was a campaign driven by fear, dehumanization and trying to capitalize on who would retaliate with the most force.

How Israel Marginalizes Its Arab Citizens: Disaffection prompted the lowest voter turnout in years among Arab Israelis, Foreign Policy, April 15, 2019

Voting is a fundamental principle in any democracy. Yet, it is far from the only principle. The previous section outlined the systemic discrimination of Palestinian citizens of Israel and other minorities. Despite having the right to vote, the crippling discrimination laws, and that neither of the two main contenders – Netanyahu and Gantz – were interested or willing to allow any kind of partnership with Palestinian parties, created significant disaffection among Palestinian citizens of Israel.

What Can We Expect in the Months and Years to Come?

Will Netanyahu annex illegal settlements in West Bank?, Al Jazeera, April 7, 2019

Three days before the election, Netanyahu made a last-ditch effort to solidify his victory by promising to officially annex illegal settlement blocks in the West Bank. This promise has been brushed off by many analysts as purely an election tactic. However, given the increased expansion of settlements in the West Bank, including expanding and altogether new settlement blocks, as well as continued destruction and eviction of Palestinian villages in the Jordan Valley, many are arguing that this promise must be taken very seriously.

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Map showing Israeli Settlement blocks in the West Bank and Jerusalem (as of 2017) (MCC photo/Jonathan Dyck)

The pattern, so far, has been an incremental annexation, or “annexation creep” as settlements expand, displacing more communities.

Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Middle East Eye, April 11, 2019

“Occupation has been useful as a term employed conceptually to reinforce the hollow paradigm of a negotiated settlement,” and a negotiated settlement is nowhere in sight. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate the way we think about this conflict, in order to advocate more effectively for change?

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Amal Nassar stands with her nephew Bishara Nassar on the hilltop farm where their family has lived for more than 100 years. The farm is near Bethlehem and is surrounded by five Israeli settlements collectively called Gush Etzion (MCC photo/Meghan Mast)

In its place many are beginning to refer to the situation as settler-colonialism – a pattern that continues, despite international law and outcry; and a term that speaks broadly to multiple other contexts around the world – hitting close to home here in Canada with the dispossession and dehumanization of Indigenous peoples. Perhaps this framing will offer a way forward, “[a] first step towards building a shared future based on humanity, justice, equality and democracy for all.”

For more information on Israeli settlements and the impacts on Palestinians, see MCC’s A Cry for Home resources, including our story (with video) and our factsheet.

Action: Make your voice heard! Click here to send a message to the Canadian government that 52 years of occupation is enough!

Rebekah Sears is the Policy Analyst for MCC’s Ottawa Office

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