Feb. 10 was a big day in Israeli politics. For the past few months, the recent elections have been a source of tension, with the center party, Kadima, and the center right party, Likud, competing for majority seats in the parliament and for prime-minister. Although Tzipi Livni, who has been the head of Kadima since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation in September, had the chance to form a coalition a few months ago, the parties on the left held too few chairs in the Knesset to form a majority. That difficulty predicted the future challenges of either center-leaning party to form a coalition.
The exact seating of the parties in coalition hasn’t been announced, however, the recent elections showed a significant shift in the views of Israeli citizens toward the right. Both Livni and Binyamin Netanyahu, the head of Likud, are claiming victory in this election. Although Kadima gained more seats in the election, Likud still has the upper hand. With Yisrael Beiteinu, the party of the far right, gaining four seats and Likud gaining 15, the right is in the best position to form a coalition and gain a majority of seats in the government. In Israel, the right side of the political spectrum is less willing to compromise on land. The left, on the other hand, is willing to consider more peaceful options. Although the new prime minister has yet to be announced, predictions point to Netanyahu.
So where does that leave us now? It is not surprising that Israeli citizens would vote right as a result of the recent war with Gaza. American politics, however, followed a different trend with the left becoming stronger as people grew increasingly more tired of war. The different attitudes of the U.S. and Israeli governments toward war will pose a problem for U.S. President Barack Obama. Although Obama called the Israel-Palestine peace process one of his top priorities, it will be more difficult for America to work with a right wing Israeli government that is less inclined to negotiate or even address the conflict with Palestinians, as past governments have been under Kadima.
As part of the left-wing Zionist movement, The Union of Progressive Zionists works toward a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East. But how should we react when we’re not in support of the future government of the country we love so much? Currently, we are a small group here on campus, with the goal of promoting education and dialogue on the current situation as well as promoting our ideals: peace, equality and social justice for all citizens.
You might have noticed on Facebook that people have been “donating their statuses,” using applications like “QuassamCount” or “SupportGaza.” Even though this “activism” seems unimportant, it portrays a deeper issue within our generation. People often focus merely on statistics and one-sided views from the media and ignore the bigger picture. We need to address our problems’ roots, and we can’t do that by pointing fingers and refusing to take responsibility. It is imperative that we not blindly support one side. As members of a left-wing movement, we are not in support of a right-wing government in Israel. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t Zionists. It is important that we not automatically agree with all of Israel’s policies just because we are Zionist. As Zionists, we have a vision of equality for all citizens, and a separate state for Palestinians. Our criticism of Israel’s government, therefore, does not come from an anti-Israel approach, but from the fear that without a peaceful, two-state solution, Israel’s existence could be at risk.
With the results of the elections last week, we urge everyone to take the extra step and educate themselves on different perspectives of the situation. Form your own opinion — do not simply take the views of the extreme right, or the radical left. While the path to peace may not be looking too bright, we still hold hope for the future. Although they may currently be a minority, there are still many Israeli citizens who believe in dialogue and education toward peace. Let’s help their voices be heard.
Bria Gray and Alex Levy are the President of UPZ and a member of the executive board, respectively.