WITH the support of right-wing parties even more racist and extreme than his own, Benjamin Netanyahu is set for a record fifth term as Prime Minister of Israel.
The slightly left-of-centre Haaretz newspaper warns this could escalate Israel’s transition towards dictatorship. For the Palestinian people of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem whose communities are being lacerated, surrounded and squeezed by Jewish settlers from Israel, North America, Europe, Russia and elsewhere, Israel already is one.
But Israel’s latest election campaign plumbed new depths up to and including on polling day last Tuesday.
Netanyahu supporters blatantly violated electoral rules on an unprecedented scale, even filming inside polling stations in Arab areas and removing or disfiguring large numbers of ballot slips for opposition parties. One result has been the loss of votes and seats by left-wing and Arab formations.
Aided and abetted by wide sections of the mass media, “Bibi” Netanyahu’s image and slogans were everywhere. The Israel Hayom daily paper owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson — reputedly the 15th richest man in the world — played a particularly obnoxious role in its utterly one-sided and dishonest coverage.
A free publication with the highest circulation in the country, it lionises Netanyahu, neglects to report the many political and criminal charges against him and libels his election opponents without shame or restraint. Not for nothing is it known as the “Daily Bibi.”
As for Mr Adelson himself, he was the single biggest donor in the 2016 US presidential campaign, handing Donald Trump a cool $25 million. Since winning that election, in defiance of UN resolutions President Trump has announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and endorsed its annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights.
Throughout the Knesset campaign, most of the Israeli media peddled the propaganda of Netanyahu and his Likud party without critical analysis or reflection. His main opponent, his own former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, was reviled as a turncoat, a friend of Hamas terrorists, a sex offender and the mentally ill husband of a left-wing extremist.
In reality, Gantz’s intolerable crime was to call for the reopening of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and the amendment of Israel’s new racist nationality law. An apologist for Israeli war crimes committed under his command, he has been no friend of the Palestinians. But he wants to reach a final settlement to separate the West Bank — or at least much of it — from Israel altogether, whereas Netanyahu campaigned for the full integration of its Jewish settlements into the Israeli state.
Prime Minister “Bibi” may get his way, so long as his prospective coalition partners agree to grant him immunity from criminal charges of bribery and corruption.
However, the size of the popular vote for anti-Likud parties indicates that there is still some hope that Israel may yet depart from its current disastrous descent into total moral bankruptcy.
But that will also require international solidarity with the right of the Palestinian people to their own unified state with its capital in East Jerusalem and an escalation of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign to force the Israeli government to the negotiating table.
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