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Executive Summary

When Left is Right: How Palestinians Can Burst Israel’s Political Bubble

Israelis speculate whether the latest developments in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption scandals mark the beginning of his political demise. It is troubling, especially to Palestinians, that if these corruption cases are the harbinger of Netanyahu’s downfall, they will have had nothing to do with the more egregious crimes for which he is responsible, and for which he has yet to be held accountable.

Since the Second Intifada, Israeli society has shed much of its support for the traditional left, which in their eyes exposed Israel to Palestinian suicide bombings and rocket fire. These conditions allowed right-wing leaders such as Netanyahu to infuse their policies into the mainstream – and for the average Israeli, their approach seems to work. The “stability” Netanyahu offers, however, is an illusion built on the oppression of Palestinian lives.

The international community has been complicit in preserving Netanyahu’s illusion. The US and EU have deepened their ties with Israel while pretending that the prime minister is committed to the peace process.

It is unclear if Netanyahu will be forced to step down or if his charges will affect Likud’s electoral support. This has not stopped political maneuvering to prepare for a “post-Bibi” future – one that bodes growing misfortune for the Palestinians. All the leadership contenders have histories of espousing racist and violent views of Palestinians as being either nuisances to tolerate, or threats to be destroyed.

Despite some parties declaring their support for a two-state solution, there is little difference today between the right wing’s and center left’s visions of that solution. Further, all the political camps are united in the view that Palestinians must remain at the mercy of Israeli diktats, whether through unequal citizenship, a shriveled quasi-state, or permanent occupation.

Policy recommendations:

The Palestinian leadership in Israel: The Joint List’s impact lies in exposing the racism of the Israeli center left and in helping to break the myth of Israel as a liberal democratic state. It should set two priorities: Engage with its constituents to restore public trust, and further integrate and consolidate its internal institutions across factional lines; and bolster its resources for conducting international advocacy with political actors such as the EU and with public stakeholders such as in the US.

Grassroots and civil society organizations: Legal and human rights groups must actively intervene to secure people’s right to boycott and protest for Palestinian rights, such as through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Foreign governments and international institutions: States must set aside the defunct “peace process” and adopt a strategy of balancing the conflict’s power dynamics by conditioning their relations with Israel on its abidance by international law. Given the US administration’s rhetoric and actions, the ability and responsibility to lead this effort lies largely with Europe.