Professor of Political Science
Tel Aviv University
Columnist and Member of the Editorial Board
Chair of the Executive Board
Former Knesset Member for Balad and the Joint List (2019–2021)
Khalil E. Jahshan
Arab Center Washington DC
About the Webinar
On October 27, Arab Center Washington DC hosted a webinar titled “Israeli Elections 2022: Between Fragile Coalitions and Extreme Nationalism.” Panelists were: Amal Jamal, Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University; Gideon Levy, Columnist and Member of the Editorial Board at Haaretz; Orly Noy, Editor, Political Activist, and Translator of Farsi poetry and prose and Chair of the Executive Board at B’Tselem; Heba Yazbak, Politician and Sociologist and Former Knesset Member for Balad and the Joint List (2019–2021). Khalil E. Jahshan, Executive Director at Arab Center Washington DC, moderated the event.
Gideon Levy argued that the outcome of the elections is not crucial to the reality that Palestinians living under Israeli occupation face, stating that there would only be small differences between governments led by Yair Lapid or Benjamin Netanyahu, and that various parties in Israeli politics do not differ on the issues of ending the occupation or making peace with the Palestinians.
- On the significance of the elections, Levy stated, “Elections in Israel are in a way part of this masquerade, namely that Israel is a democracy, that everyone has equal rights, and everyone participates in the elections. But that’s a masquerade.”
- Levy also argued that the Israeli left is no more likely than the right to change course regarding Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, stating, “Let’s remember that all the real crimes against the Palestinian people were committed first of all by Labor, first of all by the Zionist left; [Benjamin] Netanyahu only completed the picture.”
Heba Yazbak discussed potential outcomes for the upcoming elections, Palestinians’ frustration with predominantly Palestinian political parties in Israel, the growing rise of fascism and fascist parties in the country, the extreme policies of the current government, and reasons behind low Palestinian voter turnout.
- On reasons for what is expected to be low voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel, Yazbak in part blamed the collapse of the Joint List, saying, “The split and the fragmentation of the Joint List that included the four active Arab parties among the Palestinians in Israel led to disappointment. People have seen the Joint List as a piece of hope, as a list that can confront, as a list that had more power.”
- On the effect the current Israeli government’s continued entrenchment of the occupation and discrimination will likely have on Palestinian voter turnout, Yazbak stated, “The current Israeli government has brought no change, but rather a continuation of colonial apartheid policies and of ongoing discrimination against the Arabs in Israel. These policies influence Arab citizens’ aspirations and affect their political participation, including voting.”
Amal Jamal spoke about the complicated reality of the Israeli political system, highlighting sociological and discursive shifts in Israeli society and politics over the past several decades. He also discussed the rise of Israel’s nationalist religious community, Israel’s commitment to a procedural democracy that it uses as a tool to gain international support, the reduction of the country’s political discourse to a simple “for or against” rhetoric, and the significance of the participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the political system.
- On the difference between the center and right-wing parties that currently dominate Israeli politics, Jamal said, “These parties don’t differ very much when it comes to the major issues. When you really examine the political discourse and put down the marginal issues and concentrate on the strategic points, you see the differences are not much.”
- On the potential for an alternative to Israel’s center and right-wing parties, Jamal stated, “There is still a chance for a liberal voice to criticize, to voice out a critique of the developments taking place in Israel.”
Orly Noy discussed the implications of the upcoming elections for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and the possible changes that a left- or right-wing-dominated government might bring for them, as well as the potential acceleration of Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and the possibility of increased Palestinian popular resistance to occupation.
- On the limited potential for change in Israel’s policies in occupied Palestine, Noy stated, “Even under the most moderate government that the Israeli political sphere can produce currently…we are not expected to see any real change or improvement in Israeli policies toward the occupied Palestinian territories. However, the policies can certainly take an even more dangerous and violent turn in the case of a full right-wing government.”
- On the current and future role of Palestinian popular resistance to the occupation, Noy said, “It is reasonable to assume that a far-right government would demand aggressive opposition to any display of resistance, which in the current flammable situation could easily lead to another comprehensive uprising, another intifada, that we can already see the signs of on the ground.”
Featured image credit: Shtterstock/Gali Estrange