The results of the Israeli elections are depressing, period. I’m trying to find glimmers of hope to hang on to, trying to remember the optimism that I felt at intermittent moments during the campaign as coalition negotiations begin in the struggle to form a new government of Israel in the coming weeks.
The hardest part of the campaign result is not just that Netanyahu won, but also how he won. He campaigned exclusively on a platform of fear and hatred. When people screamed about socio-economic issues and the housing crisis, he said, “But Iran.” When hospital workers went on strike because of outrageous budget cuts and patients lying in corridors, he said, “But Iran.” When the president of the United States threatened to severely damage ties with Israel, he snickered and said, “But Iran.” And the worst part was that it worked. People bought it – lots of people. The fear-mongering survivalist talk that effectively silences any and all meaningful discussion about the quality and character of Israeli society brought out throngs. Bibi won because on the day of the votes he got on television with all his cocky hate-filled fear-talk and yelled, “The Arabs are running to the polls!” If we ever doubted that Netanyahu and the Israeli right consider Arab Israelis to be lesser citizens and lesser beings, here is the proof. Bibi created a clear “us” and “them” among the citizens of this country, and that sentiment won him the election. It is repugnant, embarrassing and chilling.