A quick thought experiment with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election day message to supporters to compare how it would sound in the context of American politics:
- Replace the word ‘Arab’ with ‘African-American.’
- Replace the words ‘Likud’ and ‘Labor’ with ‘Republican’ and ‘Democrat.’
- Replace the military reference to calling up the Israeli Defense Forces reserves to a generic ‘national security state of emergency.’
Here’s what you get:
The right-wing government is in danger. African-American voters are coming out in droves to the poll. Left-wing organizations are busing them out. We are in a national security state of emergency, we have only you. Get out to vote, bring your friends and family, vote Republican in order to close the gap between us and the Democrats. With your help and with God’s help.
If any politician in the United States made the statement above, he or she would be hounded out of office and out of public view — and rightly so.
Remember that Netanyahu here was referring to Israeli Arabs, not Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza. He’s referring to the 20% (or so) of Israeli citizens that are Arabs, many of whom are Muslims, but some of whom are Druze or Christian as well. It’s not a message that rests well with the notion that Israeli democracy is healthy and thriving.
Though it may bring more right-wing voters to the polls, it seems even more likely to arouse Israeli Arab, long among the most apathetic voter groups in the country, to support the newly united Joint List, a merger of all four Arab parties, running together for the first time under the leadership of socialist attorney Ayman Odeh.
Netanyahu’s verbal strike comes hours after he revoked his formal support for a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Netanyahu is stuck in a fierce battle in his bid for reelection against the center-left Zionist Union, a merger of Isaac Herzog’s Labor Party and a faction led by former justice minsiter Tzipi Livni. Polls show that the Zionist Union may edge out Netanyahu’s center-right Likud to win the largest number of seats. But that won’t necessarily guarantee a Herzog-led government, which will depend upon days or weeks of coalition consultations with Israel’s many political parties.