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Israel's turn to right was not unexpected

By YIFAN XU in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-11-23 10:59

Israeli designate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the swearing-in ceremony for the new Israeli parliament the 25th Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov 15, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

The results of the recent Israeli parliamentary election marks a shift to the right in Israeli politics resulting from a shift in demographics in the country, according to a US foreign policy expert.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the former longtime prime minister, returned to power with a parliamentary majority, propelled by a solid right-wing coalition that included ultranationalist and religious parties.

"Netanyahu's win was not unexpected. It reflects a turn to the right in Israeli politics and a really big change in the coalition," Jack Midgley, the principal of global consultancy Midgley & Co and an adjunct associate professor in security studies at Georgetown University, told China Daily.

"This time the coalition is much smaller, and it includes some really conservative politicians," he said.

After more than one year in power, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a centrist, with a rare coalition of conservative, liberal and Arab politicians, lost in the vote held on Nov 1. This vote is one among five elections in Israel in approximately three and a half years.

Netanyahu's rightist Likud bloc and similar parties have gained 64 of the 120 seats in the 25th Knesset of Israel. He accepted on Nov 13 the formal mandate from the president to form a government, and the process could take several weeks and some negotiations. Netanyahu gave his first speech to the 25th Knesset on Monday, claiming the importance of majority rule.

According to the Jerusalem Post, more than 70 percent of citizens voted; the voting percentage was the second highest since 2015.

Midgley said that the result of the election suggested that "public opinion has moved to the right". He pointed out that the changing population is one of the reasons.

"The Arab population is growing faster than the Jewish population, and this has raised concerns.

"On the Jewish side, the Biden administration's policies in favor of a deal with Iran are unpopular in Israel, "he said, "and Netanyahuhas been consistently against making a deal with Iran.

"So, all of these forces are moving Israel to the right and Israeli politics to the right, and that's what brings Netanyahu back," said Midgley.

Midgley said the new government would not deal with the Israel-Palestinian conflict by "the idea of separate states", also called "the two-state solution," envisioning an independent state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

"It's clear from the makeup of the coalition that there will not be any discussion of a Palestinian state," he said.

Midgley said that the Biden administration has consistently favored a two-state solution. Israel will not support any deal with the Iranians under the current conditions, he said. Both situations are in direct conflict with the White House's objectives.

He also said that Israel and the United States are interested in improving Israel's relationship with Saudi Arabia for "good economic reasons and national security reasons".

"I think Netanyahu may be quietly but steadily moving in the direction of Saudi Arabia. That an evolution that the Biden administration favors," said Midgley.

"Both countries have that in common. That will not change; the range of options is becoming a little narrower as a right-wing government emerges in Israel," he noted.

In the Nov 8 midterm elections in the US, Republicans win the House, and Democrats still control the Senate; this means a possible shift to the right in Washington.

"The challenge that Israel faces, like the challenge that Africa faces, the challenge that India faces in some ways, even the challenge that other Asian countries face, is a growing population of poor people who have little hope, little access to healthcare, little access to education and so forth," Midgley said. "And as the world environmental situation deteriorates, those people tend to move. And when you get large-scale movements across borders, people perceive security challenges."

He said that the Israelis must manage the Palestinian question, and other great powers, including the US, also must manage the large-scale movement of people. "There are also very big chances that nothing will be done, and we could have a demographic crisis in the years ahead.

"This is a global problem, and it's going to have to be worked systematically and globally. Currently, there aren't a lot of measures in place or a lot of measures even being talked about to address these huge population movements," he said.

"And we are going to have to get more active in that area to alleviate suffering as well as to guarantee the security of people all over the world."

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