Israel set to elect far-right leaders to power


Ehud Barak, who will step down as defence minister after next month’s general election, is fond of describing Israel’s position in the Middle East as that of a villa in the jungle. In the jungle, the locals and the animals understand only strength.

The analogy is merely a modern interpretation of the “iron wall” theory espoused by Vladimir Jabotinsky – founder of Zionist revisionism and ideological mentor of Likud prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu – who argued that the Zionist enterprise could proceed only behind “an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down”.

Regional changes in the wake of the Arab Spring have only increased Israel’s siege mentality. When Israel looks at its Arab borders – Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and the Egyptian Sinai – it sees instability and what appears to be the inexorable rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

Commenting on the speech made by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during his first visit to Gaza earlier this month, Mr Netanyahu said Israel had glimpsed, once again, the true face of its enemies.

“They have no intention to compromise with us; they want to destroy our country, and obviously they will fail.”

Such is the mood in Israel today, and such an atmosphere helps explain Israel’s drift to the right in recent years.

In the early years of the state, in the 1950s and 1960s, the socialist Labour party and the powerful Histadrut trade-union federation dominated Israel.

Turning point

The electoral triumph of the Likud party in 1977 marked the turning point. Since then, apart from the victories of Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 and Ehud Barak in 1999, Likud has replaced Labour as the ascendant political force.

Next month’s election looks set to result in the formation of the most right-wing government in the country’s history. Not only did Likud form a joint list with the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu, but Likud’s internal primaries resulted in a stunning victory for the right of the party, supported by radical settlers, and a heavy defeat for moderates who spoke out against anti-democratic legislation.

The Likud Beiteinu list is dominated by politicians who strongly oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state, even though Netanyahu himself has endorsed the two-state solution.

However, it is likely that Iran, not Palestine, will dominate Israeli concerns in 2013. Netanyahu has compared Iran today to Germany in the 1930s. He has made it clear that Israel will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb, and that if the world fails to intervene, Israel will act unilaterally.

Addressing the UN general assembly in September, he warned that by spring or summer 2013, Iran would be at the final stage of nuclear enrichment, from which it would take only a few months, possibly weeks, to make a bomb.