Gaza Crisis Likely to Alter Course of Israeli Elections

Shalom Yerushalmi writes that the military operation in Gaza will make security the dominant issue in the Israeli elections, and may have assured Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak at least a few seats in the Knesset.

al-monitor A man blows a horn as others wave Israeli flags during a demonstration supporting soldiers in Israel's military operation in Gaza, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem November 15, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad.

Topics covered

west, israel, idf, gaza, ehud barak, benjamin netanyahu

Nov 16, 2012

The missile fired at the car of Hamas’ chief of staff, Ahmed Jabari, who was responsible for kidnapping the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, has changed the world order. For better or worse, Israel is at war, this time against Hamas. The conflagration could very well reach Tel Aviv, provided there still remain any Fajr 5 rockets in Gaza. Meanwhile, the skirmish extends all the way to the southern city of Dimona, adding tens of thousands of Israelis to the cycle of terror, leaving entire towns out of work and out of school.

The area is bubbling.

The bank of targets will expand, and targeted killings will be pursued in accordance with the objectives of the operation. Given this state of affairs, political and social issues have been marginalized.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s decision whether to run for election is no longer so interesting. Yesterday, he arrived at Ben Gurion Airport and nobody was there to greet him. The important debate that was to unfold here prior to the election about the cost of living, oligopolies, "trapped profits," housing policy, military service for all and even sexual harassment — all of these issue will be put on hold, damn it, maybe by as much as four years.

That’s it. The ballot box is likely to be dominated now by a security agenda. Israel has entered a state of existential anxiety and concern for its residents, mainly those in the south. At this time, there is no room for opposition, only patriotism. Anything that the left wing might say will be construed as criticism, and any criticism will be interpreted as an anti-national act that undermines the collective morale. Already, yesterday [Nov. 14] the leaders of the left and centrist parties made their way to the TV studios only to express positions in support of the government’s military course of action. None of them dared ask questions that could swing voters away. Silence, a war is on.

The fighting in the south naturally puts the leaders — those who run our affairs and in whom we place our trust — in the forefront and in the limelight. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have won a big victory, not only a security one but also an electoral one. After an assassination and in an evolving war, who remembers the dispute between the two of them barely a month ago? Who remembers Barak’s upsetting visits to the US or the lashing out of Minister Moshe Yaalon at him? Who recalls Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was just shy of accusing Barak of treason?

We should not suspect for a moment that the escalation in the south was deliberate, even if this is known to have happened before, especially on the eve of an election. Wearing leather jackets, enjoying the backing of the IDF, sporting new notches on their belt and using combat jargon while diverting the enemy’s attention — Netanyahu and Barak could not possibly have dreamed of a better military-defense campaign. No doubt, these events are worth a few Knesset seats. One can only hope that the carefully thought-out journey that has just begun will not slide toward a dangerous direction because of the election — otherwise, our leaders might also pay a heavy price.

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