Orbiting Dicta

Israel’s Troubling Slide to the Right

Today Israeli citizens – Jewish, Arab, and Christian – go to the polls, although large numbers of Palestinian Israelis are expected to boycott the process out of frustration, despair, and resentment at continuing Israeli oppression. Ironically, millions of Iranians are also celebrating the Anniversary of the Revolution that ended two thousand years of monarchy and brought “the” Ayatollah to power.


In the wake of the more-or-less successful elections in Iraq last week, there is something ominous about the decided slide to the right in Israel, which may partially reflect the climate of opinion during and following the assault on Gaza.  The emergence of Avigdor Lieberman as a power broker is particularly troubling in the face of his inflammatory policy toward non-Jewish Israeli citizens, which is to say stripping them of their citizenship and what few rights they can acclaim to have if not to exercise.  Small wonder the Arab population is hanging back from the polls and the small Christian minority watches and waits nervously.  Lieberman is widely expected to become a cabinet member in either Netanyahu’s or Livni’s cabinet.  In either case he will be a power broker to reckon with.  An émigré from the old Soviet Union, Lieberman has been marked as a fascist by the Left.  To tell the truth, he sounds quite a lot like Mussolini.


It is probably unfair to call Lieberman an out-and-out racist, however.  He also loathes anti-Zionist Jewish Israelis who seek accord with the Palestinians.  He would strip them of their citizenship also.  In 2006, on a visit to the United States, he declared that Arab-Israeli legislators who attempted to negotiate with Hamas “should be shot.”  He meant it.


Compared to Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu seems almost moderate.  He merely wants to escalate the violence against Gaza and increase the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank.  All this under cover of the protective wing of the United States, of course — and billions of dollars of aid and war materiel.  Small wonder the Arab world views the U.S. with a mixture of suspicion and resentment.


This election may test the mettle of the Obama administration in some very unwelcome ways, not least in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.