The Regional ‘Voters’ in Israel’s Elections
The Regional ‘Voters’ in Israel’s Elections
The Israeli elections, scheduled for September 17th, may or may not end Binyamin Netanyahu’s rule. However, be it what it may, Israeli society has enough structural problems in a state based on religion alone.
We have long read about racial tension and discrimination between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, new East European immigrant and old immigrants and settlers, and the wide spectrum of religious affinities. The latter comprise from the ultra-religious sects that do not recognize the Israeli state - because it was created by man, not the Messiah - and the secular and leftist Jews; and in between lies a multitude of extremist, conservatives, liberal Zionists.
On the other hand, we have always heard that Arab political errors of judgment have contributed the most to the unity and cohesion of Israeli society. This issue must not be underestimated given the following:
-Although the third and fourth Israeli generations may be less knowledgeable of Arab societies than the founding first and second generations, Arab societies do not know much about Israeli society despite coexisting with it – mostly under its terms – for more than 70 years!
-Since 1948, the Arab world has had neither enough awareness nor adequate response, first to Zionism, and second to Israel as a state.
-There is still no unified or solid Arab position towards Israel despite the loud and chaotic rhetoric. Here, I do not only mean those claiming to be bitter enemies and call for the liberation of Jerusalem, but also include the confused and fragile defenders of peace with Israel, and those going overboard in calling for normal relations in spite of Israel’s rejection of moderation and voting – time and time again – for extremists.
-There is no unified Palestinian position that is capable of building a unified Arab position. Here, some may argue that Arabs have never allowed Palestinians to be their own masters; instead, they have interfered in their affairs, fiddled with their cause, and pushed them to adopt their different agendas. This forced involvement in inter – Arab conflicts has weakened the Palestinians and deprived their cause of unanimous Arab support.
-Due to continuous Arab failure and escalating Israeli aggression, Palestinians have become desperate; and with desperation came wrong bets. From then on, mistakes have accumulated in an Arab political quagmire and an accelerated Israeli shunning any kind of genuine coexistence.
These factors among others, on both the regional and international levels, have brought us to the current ‘scenario’ in the Israeli election campaign.
Regionally, if Arab mistakes were always a decisive ‘elector’ in almost all Israeli elections, today there are two additional players; the Iranian and Turkish leaderships.
In fact, Iran and Turkey are not newcomers, neither to the Arab ‘Mashreq’ nor to the Arab – Israeli Conflict. Iran was a major power that dominated most of the region during the Persian Achaemenid rule, namely under Emperors Darius I and Xerxes I (between 522 and 465 BC), and Turkey ruled most of the Arab World between 1516 and 1918 AD) under the banner of the Ottoman Empire.
What is more relevant now, however, is that after WW II (1945), and the founding of Israel (1948), Iran was ruled by the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (following the forced abdication of his father Reza Shah), and the pro-West and anti-Soviet Right was in power in Turkey. Thus, during ‘The Cold War’ which brought about the ‘policy of containment’ and ‘regional pacts’ Iran and Turkey were allies of the US and UK and full members of ‘The Baghdad Pact’ (later known as ‘CENTO’). This means that these two major Muslim countries were on good terms with the nascent Jewish state, since they were strategic allies to its global backers.
Today, both Iran and Turkey believe they have legitimate rights to play active regional roles outside their present borders; and here we see that the Arabs’ unprecedented weakness is providing the two countries with an excellent opportunity to claim more of the ‘Mashreq’ Arab cake. Worse still, a major factor in Iran and Turkey’s ‘legitimization’ of their ambitions in the region is religious. This is obvious because neither countries, which were historical enemies, cannot use the ethnic card as a tool, for two reasons:
1- While the Arabs accepted in the past living a non-Arab sovereign ruling under Muslim legitimacy, they have not tolerated living under a non-Arab nationalist leader.
2- Both Iran and Turkey are countries with large ethnic minorities; noting that Turkic minorities alone make up around % 30 of the country’s population, while non-Turkic minorities make up around one-quarter of the population of Turkey, most of whom are Kurds, in addition to Arabs, Circassians and others.
Military, political, and demographic Iran’s expansion inside the Arab world today is taking place under the claim of defending ‘Shi’ism’ and the Shi’a communities under its guidance and directives. As for Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ‘Islamist’ party are leading the charge of Sunni ‘political Islam’. Thus, between Iran’s Vali e Faqih’s hammer and Turkey ‘Ikhwan’s’ anvil, the fabric of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen is being torn to pieces. The remnants of ‘state’ institutions are collapsing amid the brainwashing of these countries’ youth. Moreover, development is being ruined, culture distorted, societies destroyed, and populations decimated.
Such a situation is quite suitable to Israel’s extremists, who feel that now is the right time to move post forward and seeking more, especially from ‘friendly’ leaderships in Washington and Moscow. Indeed, this month’s Israeli elections are realistically fought between two ‘hawkish’ camps only: Civilian extremists, and ‘generals’ of the military and security establishment, with little hope of a breakthrough that would serve the cause of just and permanent peace.
The tragedy of Syria, the coup in Yemen, the pseudo-victories of Lebanon’s Hezbollah have been ideal gifts to Israel’s extremists. In fact, what election manifesto those extremists can ever think of would be better than the scenes of Lebanese demonstrating in front of embassies in Beirut demanding immigrant visas, and the return of Al-Assad’s regime to the countryside of Hama and Idlib after dubious ‘deals’?