After Netanyahu victory, what next?

POLARISATION: the left leaning Zionist Union challenged the reactionary agenda of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the far right

by Bill Bonnar The general election in Israel last week saw the re-election of a reactionary, hawkish government and represents a blow to any kind of peace process in the Middle East. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a fourth consecutive victory for his Likud led coalition defeating the more left leaning Zionist Union; a coalition comprising The Labour Party and Hatnuah.

The Zionist Union went into the election offering the prospect of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian Authority and a social and economic programme centred on providing better housing and health care and tackling the decline in workers living standards caused by rampant inflation.

While the international media tend to concentrate on the implications for the wider Middle East situation this was an election dominated by domestic economic and social issues.

The fact that up until the final days of the election, the Zionist Union was running neck and neck with Likud shows that there are forces in Israel which challenge the reactionary agenda of Likud and the far right.

The Zionist Union define themselves as a Left Bloc and also contain some smaller parties including the Green Movement. Formed last December they polled 18 per cent of the vote and won 24 seats as compared to Likud’s 23 per cent and 30 seats.

The result shows an increasing polarisation in Israeli politics with Likud only able to form a government through alliances with extreme right wing parties.

Along with the above the Palestinian issue was significant central in the success of the Zionist Union showing large numbers of Israelis wanting a negotiated settlement with Palestine and more than willing to embrace the proposed two-state solution.

In fact the creation of the Zionist Union in December was in part sparked by a sense of outrage amongst many ordinary Israelis at the slaughter in Gaza last summer.

In the Washington, there was a sense of dismay at the result. Now fully committed to a two state solution, the US government clearly sees the Likud-led coalition as the main obstacle to peace.

This may change if the Republicans win the next presidential election with the Israeli lobby already hard at work to get the American administration back on track. The creation of a Palestinian state co-existing alongside the state of Israel is the only feasible solution to this conflict and the only solution which can be embraced by the left.

The argument for a Palestinian state which supplants the state of Israel has become the almost exclusive property of reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces and even not all of them while opposition to a Palestinian state is driven by reactionary forces in Israel.

These latter forces are continuously promoting their agenda of military confrontation with the aim of pushing Palestinian forces into a conflict which they cannot win, ethnic cleansing in places like East Jerusalem and ever expanding Jewish settlements.

Their aim is to make a reality out of the original claims of reactionary Zionists. ‘Palestine is a country without people for a people without a country’. Their strategy, ruthlessly pursued for nearly 70 years, has been to drive Palestinians out of Palestine killing as many as they can in the process.

For Palestinians the decision by a majority of countries who make up the General Assembly of the United Nations to recognise Palestine as a state was more than simple a welcome gesture; it represented a dramatic breakthrough and has given all those pro-Palestinian forces around the world a hook to build their campaigns around. Britain as expected voted against the proposal.

In Scotland, we must continue to build on our strong record of solidarity with the Palestinian people. As was seen at the time of the slaughter in Gaza last summer large numbers of Scottish people were moved into solidarity action with demonstrations, pickets, meetings and the supply of much needed aid.

The referendum campaign opened up the debate around what the foreign policy of an independent Scotland would be. The consensus was that it would be very different from the pro-imperialist policies of successive British governments and would seek to ally Scotland with progressive movements around the world.

One of the first acts of an independent Scotland would be to recognise the Palestinian state but why wait till then? There is no reason why the Scottish Parliament could not take this decision now.

It might have no status in international law but then many of the stances taken by the British Government vis-a-vis Israel have no basis in international law. For the Palestinian people it would represent a welcome act of international solidarity and a demonstration that they are not alone.

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