Lou Sandler

The Still Evolving Politics of Israel; A Misunderstood and Unrealized Dynamic

I found today’s TOI article by Haviv Rettig Gur, ‘Meet the enigmatic, unpredictable Israeli voter’ an interesting read.

At the same time, I also thought that it leaned far more towards overly superficial categorical explanations as do so many examinations of Israeli electoral politics. Perhaps the inability to recognize that Israel and Israelis represent a far more complex ecology, need for political organization and resumed political evolution is more part of the problem than has been recognized or understood.

The forever distinction that baseline Israeli politics are represented by a hard and fast Israeli ‘Right;’ Left’ and the now ‘Tone Deaf US,’ while never accurate, has become increasingly less so.

That Israel remains a very young state whose politics are continuing to evolve; tumble this way and that is hardly a historical precedent. Consider the earlier political history of America. Citizen groups organized, yelled and fought; parties started and stopped; parties started and blended with other parties; parties started for one thing moved towards something altogether different.

Two of America’s most brilliant Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton (an immigrant to early America from the Caribbean, by the way), Thomas Jefferson and their subsequent followers (incipient political parties) following American Independence became bitter rivals starting the now American political tradition of retributive politics and assault by media. These interactions between Jefferson the Francophile and Hamilton the Anglophile were also a core of the early sociopolitical development of what made America into America.

Israel is a very young state whose politics continue to, and need to, evolve. But in Israel’s political pot swirls dramatically active confounding variables which the early Americans largely did not face. Most importantly and unlike early America, Israeli politics has never had a reasonably stable formative period as was the case in America following the Revolutionary War.

Also unlike early America, the fact that Israel has never had the time or opening to organize its political personality and temperament due to the need to actively defend itself each and every day starting before 1948 and increasingly so since continues to be a lost distinction and misunderstood dynamic.

An overriding issue is that the ‘tribal’ framework which helped forge modern Israel and allowed those of rather different political and philosophical orientations to still work towards mutually agreed to and common outcomes has really not evolved much further in the years since Israel’s independence. That Israel remains far more inward looking; its politics ecologically limited as even represented by the article by Haviv Rettig Gur is a point that I would far more prioritize.

The general philosophy of the ‘Right’ more or less created modern Israel and framed the politics of its founding on the even then mistaken premise ‘…that Palestinian national aspirations could be ignored.’

Just one contradiction, of course, is that this narrow view and perception both created the initial organization and strength for modern Israel while also simultaneously generating the framework for a self-sustaining state of perpetual conflict.

While perhaps a loose analogy, this dynamic was and is not altogether unlike that of the Treaty of Versailles following the First World War. Just as the Treaty of Versailles created critically needed new politics and the initial creation of also needed new political entities, it was also doomed to degrade to more conflict from its initial signatures.

The need by Israel and the international community to not require a subsequent and mutually involved ‘global’ conflict as happened in the case of the Treaty of Versaille to correct earlier political naivete and practice is paramount. That aspects of current international and Middle East geopolitics have started to replicate more at risk conditions prior to WWI bodes poorly and also needs thoughtful, coordinated and immediate attention.

With consideration to the early political (less than a century ago) history of Israel, its Founders early mantra of the almost ‘non personhood’ (or general irrelevance) of early Israel’s Palestinian residents most certainly minimized the need to engage in protracted ‘negotiations’ at the time which would have almost certainly failed to the catastrophe for the creation of modern Israel.

I would argue that it was these long since lost ‘negotiations;’ the still overlooked need to give attention and prioritization to the full ecology of modern Israel that has sustained these dangerous social and historical gaps and creation of a needed infrastructure which continues to drive the violence, political reactivity and constant disruptions for and between Israel and its immediate Palestinian neighbors.

The Intifadas are then far less of a cause for the current state of Israeli politics and electoral behavior but, similar to the ongoing instability and disorientation of modern Israeli politics, are symptomatic of this continued huge gap in Israel’s political evolution.

When such a gap in the organizing and evolution of a nation’s political infrastructure combines with the need to remain on a constant state of dynamic military alert, the political beneficiaries will more often be the most reactive and inward looking components of that political polity.

It is exactly this dynamic which has allowed an Israeli hard Right fronted more recently by Benjamin Netanyahu to remain in power even without a vision for the future of Israel; without a vision or viable strategy for Israel’s future viability and stability. It has also guided the sad to watch internal divisions, fractures and still increasing Jew on Jew vitriol which we are currently doing to ourselves and by ourselves.

The need to fill in Israel’s still firmly in place gaps in sociopolitical development and related social infrastructure while freeing Israel of its inward, however naturally protective, ‘tribal’ framework is a primary operant.

Keeping Netanyahu and the hard Right in office would likely represent yet another dangerous delay in Israel’s political and social evolution by continuing to block access to what would be desperately needed serious and thoughtful consideration and activity towards the next needed steps and process components of a modern Jewish State of Israel – which does not infer my support for ‘Jewish Legislation,’ by the way (

While a strong and responsive military with the will and capacity to respond timely and powerfully remains vital to Israel’s current and ongoing reality, the capacity to reorganize and kick start Israel’s still very much delayed political and social processes and evolution is key. And my fear is that such a critically important dual capacity is more likely to remain dramatically compromised if Netanyahu and the hard Right remains the dominant political manager for the State of Israel.

If Netanyahu does manage to keep his day job once again, Israelis and those who support and believe in a stable, secure but also manageable Jewish Israel, should and will need to communicate this exact message to Netanyahu and his own cohort clearly and directly.

About the Author
I was born in Baltimore, MD and have since had a wide range of experiences including a year plus in Israel. I've been a progressive organizer, writer/media spokesperson, coordinator and freelance. I am a PhD level Clinical Behavioral Analyst specializing in severe behavioral need in children (and adults) and their families. I write through no ‘agenda or special interest’ other than being a passionate supporter of Israel and Israel's future.
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