As we emerged from disbelief and began to accept the new reality of Trump ascending to the US presidency in November 2016, we began to see more clearly the division between the blue and the red in the US. The blue parts, focused around large metropolitan areas and along the coasts, were dramatically disconnected from their red brethren. The red parts were the more rural, overlooked, disenfranchised, poorer, and less well educated parts of the country, in a broadly general sense. The Trump campaign capitalized on these feelings of abandonment and fomented angers and frustrations to lead them to the win.
Fast forward to October 2019 in Israel and the reelection of Netanyahu. Many felt that the Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz, offered a viable alternative to Netanyahu. Blue and White’s strong showing did not bring Israel a new Prime Minister, but will hopefully offer a meaningful opposition to the coalition. Time will tell.
More saliently, however, we can pour over the polling station by polling station voting results which are publicly available. In a thorough and eye-opening summary of the 2019 elections Simona Wineglass parses the results. It is plainly clear – Blue and White has a Red problem. The Israeli equivalent of the Red States supported Netanyahu and the religious or radical right-wing factions. The well-to-do Blue States supported Blue and White and left-wing parties.
Why does this matter? I see here a trend in Israel replaying what happened in the US. I understand this summary as Gantz, along with the other three men leading his party (Lapid, Ashkenazi, and Yalon) being out of touch with the everyday Israeli who is working hard to get by one day at a time. I see this testosterone-laden party unaware, or unable, to speak to the everyday Israeli and to allay the fears that have been fomented by the right-wing. I wonder what will it take to change our political discourse away from anti-Arab, security rhetoric to one focused on peace, regional stability, and social justice to ensure the future of Israel.
Time will tell what the long-term results will be of this most recent election. Time will tell how long Netanyahu will actually remain in power this time. How will those elected understand the results, learn from them, and adjust their focus to ensure that they comprehensively represent Israeli society and not just those at the upper echelons? I’m skeptical that this cadre of male, former generals can come to have a deeper understanding of the complexities of modern Israeli society. As it is, their slate of candidates (and let’s be honest, no one’s slate) did not accurately reflect Israeli society to include women and minorities.
What is it going to take to open the eyes of the left-wing to the reality of so much of Israeli society? What is it going to take to open our eyes, the electorate, to demand better of our leaders? How long will it take? Can we afford the time?