(April 15, 2019 / JNS) The Jewish people of Israel spoke very loudly on election day: they want Benjamin Netanyahu to continue to be prime minister of Israel. To an outside observer it might appear that the election will result in a government similar to Netanyahu’s previous coalition. However, a closer look at the actual votes and the parties receiving those votes shows a massive shift in Israeli public opinion against a Palestinian Arab state.
In the 2015 Knesset election, parties elected on a platform supporting a Palestinian state constituted 40 Knesset members, not including the 13 Arab MKs. In last week’s election, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party merged with Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya’alon to become a new party, called Blue and White, the platform of which no longer included support for a Palestinian Arab state and which received 35 seats. Yesh Atid had received 11 seats in the previous Knesset election, with a platform supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Labor Party, which had 24 seats in the previous Knesset, saw the move of the Israeli electorate against its “land for peace” policy; Israelis have seen that giving up land has not brought peace but instead terrorism and less security for Israel. Labor tried to stay relevant by electing as its new head former member of the center-right Kulanu Party Avi Gabbay. However, Labor’s platform did not move much and still supported a Palestinian state, and as a result it still lost many seats to Blue and White, plummeting from 24 seats to 6. The far-left Meretz Party dropped to 4 seats from 5, barely making it into the Knesset. Knesset members running on platforms supporting Palestinian statehood went from 40 MKs in the previous Knesset to 10 in the new one.
The Likud Party surpassed all poll expectations by increasing its support to 36 seats from 30. It did so by taking votes from other parties, as Netanyahu claimed he would support annexation of the settlement blocs and not remove any settlers from their homes. Netanyahu made clear that he opposed a Palestinian Arab state as did all of the other parties that are part of the expected Likud government coalition of 65 seats. The other parties in the coalition are the haredi Orthodox parties of Agudath Yisrael that went from 6 to 7 seats and Shas, that went from 7 to 8 seats. The United Right won 5 seats, similar to what it had in the previous Knesset, minus the New Right’s breakaway faction. Kulanu dropped from 10 to 4 seats. Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon was a former Likud member and it is likely his party will merge with Likud. Israel Beitenu had six seats in the previous Knesset but one broke off and ran independently and they won five seats in this Knesset. The three parties closest to getting in and who won what would have been an additional seven seats’ worth of votes that became worthless because they did not pass the 3.25% threshold were all members of right-wing parties in previous Knessets. The New Right Party was part of what is now the United Right in the previous Knesset and just missed getting into the Knesset with over 3% of the vote, and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party (Feiglin is another former Likud member) won over 2% of the vote. Orly Levy, a former member of Avigdor Liberman’s right-wing Israel Beitenu, won over 70,000 votes but did not get in either.
The final election result shows that parties that do not support Palestinian statehood now comprise 100 Knesset seats, as opposed to 66 in the previous Knesset. This is a massive change, and reflects the huge transformation that has taken place among the Israeli public. The missiles launched at Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip after Israel withdrew from Gaza told Israelis that there is no such thing as a demilitarized Palestinian state. Hamas in Gaza has found ways to smuggle in and/or build its own missiles and fire them at Israeli towns and cities. Over a million Israelis have had to run to bomb shelters repeatedly, and just recently a missile from Gaza destroyed a house in Israel many miles away, again showing the dangers Israel now faces from Hamas rule in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority has shown over the years that it, too, is not interested in peace but rather in supporting terrorism. Its policy of allocating 7% of its budget (hundreds of millions of dollars) to terrorist prisoners and their families, with the largest stipends going to those who murder the most Israelis and Americans, has sickened both Israelis and Americans. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas financed the Munich Massacre and saluted one of its leading participants, Abu Dauod, as a hero when he passed away a few years ago. The PA education system has inculcated in young Palestinians hatred of Jews to such an extent that an ADL study on anti-Semitism found Palestinian Arabs to be the most anti-Semitic people in the world, with 93% holding anti-Semitic views. Terrorists who murder Israelis and Americans are praised by Abbas as heroes. The vast majority of Israelis see no hope of achieving any peaceful arrangement with the Palestinians under Abbas’s leadership, or under any future leader either, because of the rampant anti-semitism within the PA. The Israeli public views the creation of a Palestinian state in the current situation as a step that would lead to war, not peace.
The recent public letter signed by several organizations, including the far-left Israel Policy Forum, that called for the Trump administration to pressure Israel to not annex any territory in Judea and Samaria showed a great disconnect with the views of the Israeli public demonstrated by the recent election. Parties supporting Israeli retention of the settlement blocs that Netanyahu indicated he may want to annex received 100 Knesset seats (out of 120 total Knesset seats), as Blue and White supported keeping settlement blocs. There is even a question regarding whether Labor supports keeping them as well. Annexing the settlement blocs, with some of the settlements being only a few miles from Jerusalem, is a policy supported by the majority of those elected to the Knesset. It is further the widespread view of Israelis that for Israel to have secure borders the settlement blocs need to be part of Israel. The Israeli Policy Forum letter therefore represents a view that is detached from the views of the Israeli people that have to live every day with the results of any decisions bearing on their security. It is further astonishing that the letter should call on the Trump administration to pressure Israel to make concessions or intimate a view that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 borders that former foreign minister Abba Eban famously referred to as the “Auschwitz lines.” Finally, Judea and Samaria is historic Jewish land that Israel won back in the 1967 war after being attacked by Jordan.
The Israeli elections showed a massive change in the views of the Israeli public, as well as a sense of a consensus within that public. The Israeli people do not believe a Palestinian Arab state will bring peace and view the settlement blocs as necessary to securing Israel’s borders. The Trump administration has consistently displayed a tremendous understanding of Israel’s security needs and has enhanced Israel’s security by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The Trump administration has further helped Israel’s security by ending the Iran nuclear deal and enacting strong sanctions against Iran. The Trump administration has also taken action against the PA terrorism incentive program by eventually cutting all aid to the PA and closing the PA’s offices in Washington, D.C.
The Oslo process was based upon the faulty premise that ceding land to the Palestinians, and eventually a state, would lead to peace. Instead, any land handed over was used as a launching pad for terrorism. A second strategy, according to which it was believed Israel could disengage from Gaza and that this would somehow enhance Israel’s security, was also proven deadly wrong, as the missiles from Gaza clearly show. The Israeli people are fully aware of these policy failures and have elected parties that represent policies they believe will best enhance their security.
Farley Weiss is president of the National Council of Young Israel. He is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy.