Editor’s Note: This report was updated February 11 to reflect the most recent election results.
Israelis have had their say at the polls, and now it is up to the world, and particularly the Obama administration, to respond.
Thirty-three parties ran for the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), ranging from the well-known Kadima, Likud and Labor to a variety of lesser known parties that ran on an array of platforms from the rights of the disabled to legalizing cannabis. However, only twelve parties managed to garner enough votes to secure seats in the Knesset.
The incoming Knesset will have a solid right-wing bloc, made up of Likud with twenty-seven seats, Yisrael Beiteinu with fifteen seats, two ultra-Orthodox parties with sixteen seats and two smaller nationalist parties with seven seats. This bloc has four more than the sixty-one-seat threshold needed to form a coalition.
The center bloc was able to muster forty-one seats. This bloc consists of Kadima with twenty-eight seats and Labor with thirteen seats. The remaining fourteen seats were won by liberal, leftist and Arab national parties.
The results clearly testify to the fact that a large majority of the elected politicians are against an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the two-state solution. Moreover, some parties have blatant neo-fascist tendencies. Yisrael Beiteinu, for example, ran under the banner of “no citizenship without loyalty,” and would like to strip any person who is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians of their citizenship. People like me.
While the devastating effects of these elections on internal Israeli politics may not concern the international community, their repercussions for Israel’s relations with its neighbors–not least the Palestinians–should certainly concern world leaders and specifically President Barack Obama, who has already declared that Middle East stability and peace are vital to US interests.
Obama’s political vision has engendered hope not only in the United States, but around the world. My expectation is that he will make good on his promise for change and introduce a courageous initiative that will finally bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians. He has both an opportunity and a responsibility to do so.
The opportunity has arisen as a result of over eighteen years of political negotiations on the two-state solution (from the Madrid Conference in 1991, through Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis) as well as the publication of promising initiatives (from the Geneva Initiative and the Arab Peace Initiative to the Nusseibeh and Ayalon Plan), which have clarified exactly what needs to be done in order to reach a peace settlement between the warring sides.