Here is a sentence I never thought I would write. The stories of the upcoming elections in Britain and Israel this year are actually quite similar.
Consider this. In both countries, a right wing party is currently in power (Conservative and Likud respectively), but looking over its shoulder at a more right wing party that has been making gains, and taking its voters, over the past few years (UKIP and Bayit Yehudi). The major left wing party in each country feels empowered by the close poll results at the moment (Labour and Labour), but the ability of the left wing party to govern will depend on their ability to form a coalition, or political union, with those pushing for the creation of a new state (SNP and Meretz/Tzipi Livni respectively).
An odd occurrence, certainly. But I believe there are at least two things that the British public can learn from this rather unique confluence of the two countries` elections.
1. Don`t judge a country by it`s most right wing party – I am certain that most Britons would not want their country as a whole to be judged by what Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, says and believes. It would be totally inaccurate to portray the “British” view to be that of the most right wing party that exists there.
It is important for the same criteria to be applied to Israel. An article that got a lot of coverage this summer was one written by a woman who was considering burning her Israeli passport, based on comments of Ayelet Shaked, a member of Bayit Yehudi. I am appalled by a number of comments made by Nigel Farage, but I do not consider burning my British passport over them. There is a difference between the views of Nigel Farage and the views that are “British”. One cannot make accusations about what “Israel” stands for based on its most right wing party.
2. Independence movements are emotional, but not practical – The comparisons between the movement for Scottish and Palestinian independence are few and far between, but Britons learned one important thing over the past year that can help us move forward with the Palestinian issue.
The campaign for Scottish independence went quite close to getting a state, despite the fact that the leaders of the campaign did not really have everything worked out– for example, they could not really answer a question as basic as what currency the independent Scotland would use. The independence movement was driven primarily by narrative and emotion, and until the end, it was able to ride this wave without really needing to hammer out the details.
Those supporting a Palestinian State are following the same path. European Parliaments are willing to recognise a Palestinian State, riding a wave of popular anti Israel sentiment, without explaining how a State split between Gaza and the West Bank will function, without defining whether Jews will have rights to pray at the Western Wall, and without explaining how Abbas will maintain control of the West Bank if Israeli military support is removed. The campaign has a great narrative, but it does not have the details worked out by any means.
I am relatively sure that the political futures of Israel and Britain will go their different ways, and we will not see such a confluence for some time. In the meantime, this election can help Britons understand a little more about Israel – a country more diverse than it`s right wing party, facing a Palestinian issue which is more complicated than a simple emotional narrative.