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Monday, March 20, 2023

Newly Elected Israeli Left Finds its Influence Limited

Small dovish parties that favor Palestinian independence have returned to power in Israel after years in the wilderness. However, they are discovering that their clout is limited, as coalition partners who favor Jewish West Bank settlements show little taste for compromise, and the country’s decades-long occupation continues.

The parties are being forced to reign themselves in as aspirations for a Palestinian state fade under their watch, with settlement development soaring and peace negotiations becoming a distant memory. Nonetheless, the left-leaning legislators argue that their participation in the alliance is critical and that the alternative is worse.

“Unfortunately, this is not the administration that will strike a peace deal with the Palestinians,” Mossi Raz, a member of the coalition’s dovish Meretz party, said. “We are not a fig leaf,” says the narrator. Our voices are being heard. However, our strength is limited.”

After a protracted political crisis, Israel’s coalition government was created in June, and it is a contentious collection of parties from all sides of the political spectrum united by the objective of keeping former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of power. The sides decided to put aside sensitive concerns like as Israel’s 50-plus-year occupancy of Palestinian-claimed territory in favor of less divisive matters such as the pandemic, the economy, and the environment.

Nonetheless, the occupation continues. Israel has accelerated the construction of thousands of houses for settlers in the West Bank under the current government. Six Palestinian rights organizations have been declared illegal by the country’s defense minister, who claims they are linked to a violent group. In the occupied West Bank, radical settlers have increased their violent attacks on Palestinians, while Israeli troops stand by and aid them. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who previously led the country’s primary settlement lobbying group, opposes the concept of a Palestinian state, and Palestinians remain gloomy about the near future.

Labor and Meretz, Israel’s two center-left parties, spent years in opposition. Labor has been in power for a decade, whereas Meretz has been in power for more than twice as long.

When Labor was in power in the 1990s, it made settling the Palestinian problem a priority, even as settlement development proceeded, as it did for the previous 54 years under all Israeli governments.

In the mid-1990s, a Labor-led government that included Meretz signed the Oslo Accords, which were temporary peace deals with the Palestinians.

However, after a series of assaults by Palestinian militants, a right-wing administration won power in 1996, followed by unsuccessful peace talks under another short-lived Labor government in 2000, and the commencement of a Palestinian uprising later that year.

The Israeli electorate swung to the right, and Labor and Meretz’s political bases eroded. Labor, which was founded by Israel’s founding fathers and was the country’s leading party for the first two decades, gained only a few seats in the 120-member parliament in recent elections. Meretz’s seat count has reduced from 12 in the 1990s to six now.

Some Labor and Meretz voters defected to the centrist Yesh Atid, Israel’s second-largest political party, which concentrates on economic problems.

Following the March elections, Meretz and Labor decided to put ideological differences aside to establish a coalition led by Yesh Atid, which included centrist and right-wing parties, as well as one Islamist party, all of which were hostile to Netanyahu’s administration.

Nationalist parties, on the other hand, prevented dovish forces from positions that would assist establish policy on the Palestinians during coalition discussions. According to Gayil Talshir, a political expert at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, the nationalist parties also have senior MPs who know who to contact to promote their demands, a talent that left-leaning parties lacked after years in opposition.

Despite this, she believes the left has enough clout to advocate for some of its goals. The coalition has a razor-thin majority in parliament and relies on the cooperation of Labor and Meretz, which together have 13 seats. “No one really wants to vote,” Talshir explained.

For the time being, most of the left’s influence has come from its rhetoric, which has been toned down for fear of upsetting the status quo. After the government blacklisted six Palestinian NGOs, including those that monitor Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories, the response was subdued.

Meretz leader and health minister Nitzan Horowitz sought details and expressed alarm, but stopped short of denouncing it.

Despite his position in the country’s Security Cabinet, Labor’s Public Security Minister Omer Barlev stated the decision was taken over his head.

Labor and Meretz have likewise been unable to halt the spread of settlements.

Meretz politician Tamar Zandberg, Israel’s environment minister, conceded that her party would not be able to fulfill all of its goals, but stated she was dedicated to the coalition agreement she had signed.

“Within those constraints, we will do all we can to advance as much of our agenda as possible,” she told The Associated Press recently.

After years of rupture under Netanyahu, there have been incremental moves toward healing the relationship with the Palestinian self-rule administration, led by Mahmoud Abbas, in the months since the coalition was established. Several Israeli government ministers met with Abbas, and Israel increased the number of work permits provided to Palestinian laborers.

The Yesh Din rights group, which chronicles settler aggression against Palestinians, has observed a change in manner, but not in content, according to Lior Amihai. He mentioned a recent parliamentary hearing on settlement violence, something he claimed he wouldn’t have anticipated in prior Knesset sessions.

“On terms of the occupation, I can’t point to outcomes in the field, but there is a different sense.” “You may collaborate with the Knesset,” Amihai remarked.

A leading Palestinian official, Ahmad Majdalani, said the improvement is merely cosmetic and that Israel still has a long way to go.

“We feel this government’s position on the Palestinian issue has not changed,” he stated.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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