Sarah Katz
Don't fit the mould - MAKE the mould.

Building the Best Future: Reflections on the 2013 Israeli Elections

Recent years have seen dominance in Israeli politics by a spectrum of ideals and parties, ranging from centrist-liberal to conservative. Let us examine the most prominent of these organizations: Likud, Kadima and the new party Yesh Atid, founded by former journalist Yair Lapid. These are the parties which took precedence in the 2013 Israeli elections. While all three have emphasized domestic rights and international affairs, the discrepancies seen in their platforms regarding relations with Palestinians represent the ever-changing opinion of the Israeli population. Following the recent attack by Gaza and subsequent military conflict, new tensions have led the Israeli people to consider what needs to be done to move forward with the peace process and which leader’s ideals will best get us there.

Despite some past concessions of Israeli land to Palestinians under its leadership, the conservative Likud party has professed a solid opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state. Its one-state aim is too provocative for Palestinian terror and international representation of the Palestinians via statehood is the only conceivable path to peace at this point. Provided that Likud was founded in 1973, soon after the much-opposed establishment of the State of Israel and a time of strong Israeli nationalism, such patriotic ideals made sense—at the time.

However, as the population of Israel realizes increasing international pressures to allow Palestinian statehood, the recent political bodies in Israel have mostly leaned toward the center, so we must work within this category in determining a feasible route to peace. Now it comes down to the centrist left parties: Kadima and Yesh Atid. While both parties move to improve Israel’s security forces by opposing the Tal Law and supporting mandatory military service for all Israeli citizens, the groups differ slightly in their views on Palestinian affairs.

Realizing the impossibility of a single state, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon founded the Kadima party which allowed for the idea of an independent Palestine. However, Kadima policy focuses more on disarming the Palestinians and maintaining settlements rather than giving them political representation. Although its name originates from the root for the Hebrew term meaning ‘progressive’, this party does not place significant emphasis on making concessions to help the peace process move forward.

Most recently, the need for improved Palestinian freedoms has been addressed by the founding of Yesh Atid. This new party focuses on both domestic rights and the issue of using concessions to Palestinians–namely granting them statehood–as an essential means for peace. Whereas Kadima calls for a continued occupied West Bank and settlement blocs, Yesh Atid emphasizes the importance of achieving Israeli security via increased rights and political voice to the Palestinians.

So which ideals are best in the grand scheme? The reality stands that two nations must share this tiny sliver of land and sacrifices must be made on both sides. Both peoples claim historic and contemporary rights to these territories and the security of one side must be won through complacency toward the other. Despite rapid transition of popular Israeli opinion to the Left, the victory of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party suggests that this change in ideals has not yet fully blossomed.  At the end of the day, Israelis–seasoned and youth alike–desire a safe homeland and are still rather stubborn in their claims to the land in which their ancestors have resided for millennia, which poses a problem given the international legal decree to cease settlements.  Provided this international pressure, Israel would do well at this point to at least try granting Palestine full political power, as nothing more than a last resort to prove to the international arena how everything possible from our side has been done for peace. After that, no one else can point fingers at us.

About the Author
Sarah Katz is a UC Berkeley alumna, cyber security engineer, and author.