The election is over, our fight is not

Jeremy Ben-Ami Image
Jeremy Ben-Ami
on April 10, 2019

The results of Israel’s elections are largely in.

After several months of political upheaval, intensive mudslinging and down-to-the-wire campaigning, it looks like Israel’s next government is likely to be fairly similar to its last.

Led once again by Benjamin Netanyahu and likely to be made up exclusively of hard-line, right-wing and religious parties — with a very similar number of Knesset seats — Israel’s next government will continue down the path that the right has been paving for decades, a path that leads away from the democratic, pluralist and egalitarian state envisioned by the nation’s founders.

In some respects, not much has changed. But what has changed is very significant — and alarming.

The Israeli right, drawing on the support and the example of President Trump and other ethno-nationalist leaders around the world, has become more extreme in pursuit of its dangerous vision — and increasingly unapologetic about using rhetoric and tactics that undermine democracy, demonize minorities and delegitimize dissent.

Over the course of the 71-year relationship between Israel and the United States, there has likely never been a more difficult or tenuous moment — or a time when the voice and work of our movement was more urgently needed.

Across the decades, the bilateral relationship between our two countries and communities has been rooted in a set of shared values and interests, including the defense of democracy and the pursuit of peace.

For several years now, those interests and values have been under threat from the actions and policies of the Netanyahu government. Now, the new government that is expected to take office in a month in Israel will likely seek to go even further.

With the active encouragement or acquiescence of the Trump administration, they will further entrench the occupation — and may pursue full or partial annexation in the West Bank, seeking to permanently prevent a two-state solution.

The stakes in the months ahead could not be higher. J Street will be here to lead the fight with determination, energy and resolve.

With so much that we care about on the line, we won’t back down, despair or give up hope. We’ll redouble our efforts.

We will lead the opposition to annexation and occupation.

We will demand that America’s political leaders not give carte blanche to Israeli policies that run counter to American interests and to our Jewish and democratic values.

We will make clear that if Netanyahu continues to move towards annexation and obstruct any chance for peace, there will have to be a serious re-evaluation of the US-Israel relationship and how it should be working.

In our communities, in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, we will promote a policy vision to counter the Trump-Netanyahu agenda, and ultimately to reverse the terrible damage these leaders have done.

In Israel, while it’s now clear that there will be no significant political change in the near future, I firmly believe that — in the long-run — that kind of change is still possible.

In this campaign, the center-left attacked Netanyahu but did not offer a clear, alternative vision and path to the one put forward by the right-wing.

As a result, yesterday’s election did not place in front of the voters the central question about Israel’s future: What happens to Israel’s security, democracy and Jewish character if it chooses to permanently rule all of the territory — and all of the people — between the river and the sea?

There are passionate and talented leaders, activists and organizers in Israel who are determined to create a new and more effective Israeli left, to put this question at the forefront of its agenda — and to change the course that their country is on.

J Street will continue to do all that we can to stand with and support these partners. While the political right in this country stands with Netanyahu and the settlement movement, we will stand firmly with those opposing them.

Let’s be clear: The months and years ahead will be crucial — and difficult.

At J Street, we’re proud to be a leading voice in this battle. We look forward to working with all of you to bring about the changes we need to see in our politics and policy, to defend our values, pursue peace and build towards a better future in Israel and here at home.

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