Ron Kronish
Ron Kronish
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Bibi-ism and Kahanism in Israel’s elections

A new coalition of far-right parties means Netanyahu may form the most anti-democratic, illiberal, extremist coalition Israel has ever known
Israeli demonstrators carry placards (which read in Hebrew: No to putting racism in the ballot box) during a protest against the extreme right-wing Kach movement members joining the Knesset (Israeli parliament), under the slogan "a Jewish voice against Kahanism" on March 2, 2019 in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu's residency in Jerusalem. - The Kach movement, founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane who was assassinated in 1990 in the US, has been banned by the Israeli government for being "racist" and "anti-democratic" in 1994. (Photo by GALI TIBBON / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images)
Do not vote for racism, Netanyahu is bad for the Jews, Israel Election posters, Getty images

The leadership of the state of Israel these days is moving further and further to the extreme political right, which is a dangerous and destructive political move, led by the current Prime Minister, whom many in Israel call “Crime Minister” since he has been indicted on 3 very major counts of corruption for which he is currently being tried (although much too slowly) in Jerusalem District court.  His most blatant move in this direction is to announce his cooperation with the most extreme political party to be involved in Israeli politics since the days of Kach (the extremist racist right-wing political party led by the infamous racist Meir Kahane), which was in the Knesset for one term 1984-1988, and which was subsequently banned from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in 1988 for being racist and anti-democratic.

This new political party, called Otzmah Yehudit, (Jewish Power), is led by an equally racist and anti-democratic person by the name of Itamar Ben Gvir, who is every bit as crazy as was Meir Kahane, as are most of the candidates on his list – who are known thugs and far-right extremists.  This political party should have been banned from the Knesset, just like Kahane’s was, but for reasons that are beyond my comprehension, this has not occurred.  This party is anti-Arab, against the rule of law, an opponent of any peace process, a proponent of the occupation of the Palestinians forever, and rejectionist of human and civil rights for most people except for members of their tribe.

A few weeks ago, Otzmah Yehudit formed a joint list with an even more extreme right-wing small political party called Noam, and a few days later, on February 3rd with a party only slightly less extreme, known as the Religious Zionist Party headed by a firebrand settler named Betzalel Smotrich, who until recently was considered the most extreme member of Israel’s parliament.  This was done with the blessings of PM Netanyahu, who, according to many media reports in Israel, helped arrange the merger behind the scenes, a move that was labeled in the press in Israel as an outright cynical ploy to to save him from going to jail, by either cancelling his trial or getting immunity from the Knesset. In so doing, there is now a chance that Netanyahu may succeed in creating the most anti-democratic, illiberal, extremist coalition that the state of Israel has ever known.  This would be a new low, even for him, a man who has brought shame and infamy upon Israel for much too long now (14 years!).

This would lead to an Israel government in isolation from the world. It would create a situation in which the new American administration, led by President Joe Biden, would have great difficulty in working with Israel, not only on a deal with Iran which would be beneficial for all concerned, but also not on a reasonable peace plan.

For Israeli citizens, like myself, such a government would be a real disaster. It will signal the rise of dangerous nationalist populism. It will mean that the country will become less and less democratic, under the continued rule of a more and more autocratic unhinged Trumpian prime minister, who seeks to undermine the justice system and the media in Israel. It is indeed a scarry scenario, led by a scoundrel who puts his own interests above those of his country and its citizens.

Can this be prevented?

Yes, but a few things have to happen.

First, Benny Gantz and his party known as Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) have to quit the race. They cannot pass the required electoral threshold and people who vote for them, if there are any left in the country, will be throwing their votes in the garbage and helping Netanyahu and the far-right get elected. The same goes for the new party of Yaron Zalika (the Economic Party), which is a one-man megalomaniacal show which should have quit the race a long time ago.

Second, Meretz and the Labor party—which both run the risk of not passing the election threshold—must reach an agreement to share votes. i.e., if one party doesn’t get in, then the other party gets their votes.

Third, all relatively sane political parties—including those on the right who are supposedly anti-Netanyahu—must not be duped into going into a coalition with him and his extreme right cronies together with the ultra-orthodox parties who are already in his pocket!  The current dysfunctional two-headed government has been a dismal failure. We don’t need another one like it. And we need to get Netanyahu out of office after far too many years of corrupt and destructive rule.

Israel has been moving to the political right for a long time. The extreme right has been growing from year to year. But there used to be some red lines, and now Bibi has crossed them.

This new combination of Bibi-ism (which is a more intelligent and more subversive form or Trumpism, with more cunning and experience) and Kahanism (an outlawed form of fanaticism and fascism) is a very dangerous cocktail. This type of outright Jewish Israeli anti-democratic coalition– which was rejected and banned by Israel’s parliament in 1988, and considered immoral and outrageous by the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens at that time—must be rejected again!  It should have no legitimate place in Israel’s democratic society.

The state of Israel will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of shrines and holy places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. (from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948)

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttlefield, in September 2017. He is currently working on a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine.
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