The Israeli elections: heads you lose, tails you lose

So who won? Like everyone else, I can only see deadlock and “a lurch to the right” in the super-close Israeli election results.

I can’t pretend I’ve ever paid much attention to domestic Israeli politics (I haven’t always looked too closely at our own Westminster shenanigans, never mind what goes on in the Knesset), but to my untutored eye the omens for human rights don’t look great.

I’ve no idea, for example, what Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu’s party’s views on healthcare, education or pensions are. But YB’s headline policy on requiring Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens to swear an oath of loyalty to a Jewish state or … leave the country, strikes me as alarming. Indeed, he’s a toxic force according to Jonathan Freedland.

How is alienating 20% of your country’s population (and doing so precisely on ethnic grounds) supposed to take a region bedevilled by conflict forward in any way? Israel already has the blatantly discriminatory ban on thousands of Palestinian husbands or wives from the West Bank or Gaza living with their partners in Israel. It’s a disgraceful – frankly racist – measure that’s been condemned by the UN. More on it here and here.

After the horror of the January Gaza war, the vast injustice of an economic blockade against a million and half Gazans, and the appropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank by the wall and illegal settlements, I would have thought that the last thing this region needs is an Israel that espouses ever more discriminatory policies. Won’t this path likely lead to greater isolation, militarism, suicide bombings in Tel Aviv, massive Israeli onslaughts in Gaza, and even – god forbid – a wider regional conflict?

Call me a pessimist, but I would have thought a touch of anti-Arab racism is not the way forward here.

So if all you can see in the Israeli election results are losers and more losers, the same is likely to be the case for Palestinians looking anxiously on. There’s news that there could be some relaxation by Israel of West Bank checkpoints – but no sign that the massive network of checkpoints and barriers will be dismantled.

If you’re a Gazan hearing that party leaders Tzipi Livni, Binyamin Netanyahu and of course Avigdor Lieberman are committed to “smashing Hamas” then, Hamas supporter or not, I reckon you’re likely to feel very worried. Heads you lose, tails … you lose.

(For another way forward … see the new video message from Terry Jones, Annie Lennox, Mike Figgis and others. War crimes in Gaza? Yes, and let’s do something about it).

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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