Thu Jan 24, 2013, 09:36 AM
oberliner (38,475 posts)
Israel: the new normal
The Israeli voter is to be credited with taking a good look at the far right and rejecting it – Netanyahu is 'King Bibi' no more
In the end, the crown prince of Israeli politics was not the dotcom millionaire who would annex 60% of the West Bank. He was neither of the far nor the national religious right, as many had confidently predicted. Israel's new normal was a former columnist and TV presenter, who has patently avoided expressing an opinion on the big issues barrelling down the slipway. The telegenic Yair Lapid represents the Israeli who wants to live the quiet life, away from wars, Iran, the Arab spring, international lecturing, existential crises and self-consuming identity politics. Lapid was bracketed as centre-left by liberal commentators, relieved that the next coalition will almost certainly not be as hardline as the last. Mr Lapid will not allow the next government to expand settlements outside the existing blocs. But nor is he a dove. Jerusalem, he declared, belonged to the people of Israel and no one else. If this puts him to the right of Israeli voters who are prepared to divide the city in return for security guarantees, it sends him off the map of any available Palestinian or Arab interlocutor. Mr Lapid could grow into a more substantial figure, but the appeal of his message that Israel be allowed to live the good life amid so much daily misery is in essence escapist.
On the other hand, the Israeli voter is to be credited with taking a good look at the far right and rejecting it. Binyamin Netanyahu is "King Bibi" no more, having lost one quarter of the combined power of his Likud and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu. He got this election badly wrong, by concentrating on shoring up his right flank, photographing himself by the Western Wall and soldiers, placating a right which ate itself up, while ignoring the centre which was growing. He is now in the position of having to assemble a centrist coalition – having pledged never to uproot settlers, however illegal, and banned Tzipi Livni from playing any further part in the peace process. His party, Likud, paid a heavy price for a leader who believed his own propaganda that he was irreplaceable.
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