Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Engraving Politics: Antagonisms of Social Protest and Peace in 2015 Israeli Legislative Elections

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Engraving Politics: Antagonisms of Social Protest and Peace in 2015 Israeli Legislative Elections

Article excerpt

Introduction

Israeli politics has undergone radical changes as a result of both geopolitical contingencies (i.e. the uncertainty regarding the Two-States' solution) and domestic developments (e.g. political reforms, social welfare, ethno-social cleavages etc.). These have influenced Israel's "state of mind", a concept, as vague as it may initially seem, that is far from being novel in either daily or psychological discourse; yet relatively unexplored in political studies. It has been mostly used in constructivist theory as a disposition, produced by opinion\preference formation and socialization; a result of skill developing and political learning, which consists of sensitivity, concern enabling the perception\rating of issues and the targeted identification of problems. In my reading, a "state of mind" is a corpus, a substructure of intangible, but nonetheless indispensable, mental pictures through which reality is perceived and constructed1 .As such, similar to the concept of identity2, the former features an emphasis on ideas, culture and values. Thus it is useful in tracing both patterns of causality over a period of time and in changing social circumstances, as well as conceptualizing individual self-definition alongside socially related cognitive endeavors3.

Based on the above, the main research question is: How the concept of "state of mind" can be used with regard to Israeli politics? Beyond the synthetic theoretical delimitations mentioned above, this paper assumes that it is possible to refer to the concept of "state of mind" as a container delineating the erosion of some traditional issues (e.g. security and peace, secular-religious status quo) and the revival of others (e.g. social equity, ethic cleavages) in the arena of the most recent legislative Israeli elections. Furthermore, in this reading, the concept reflects, to some extent, the identity of the main political actors, whether individually or collectively. Whereas a "state of mind" presents transient features (in terms of either emotions or content), an "identity" comprises more solid and structured elements (cultural traditions and normative practices) which are more easily recognizable at a social level4. However, while the latter is tangible with difficulty beyond the observable actions deriving from it, the former is more easily contextualized in time and space; a sort of segment of the larger institutionalized and politicised national identity5. Before proceeding with the argument, a caveat is necessary. Dealing with Israeli politics through the lenses of identity and state of mind is an oceanic field of interrogation. It is hence necessary to limit the focus on three main aspects: 1) political discourse and legitimacy; 2) the perception of Israel's national and social security; 3) antagonistic leadership Their choice is far from being arbitrary; the three aspects have become key-elements in Israeli politics since the country gained independence in 1948. Moreover, as Israeli democracy has been continuously challenged by both foreign and domestic difficulties (e.g. war, social unrest, ideological polarization), these three aspects need to be collocated within a bigger picture: Israeli politics. Such a deductive step is particularly useful considering the intricate Israeli sociopolitical history as well as of the wide range of politics itself. Elections may also serve as a magnifying glass of what and how citizenry perceives and articulates democratic politics; much beyond the more traditional definition of the former as an aggregation of interests entailed by democratic representation6. In a constructivist frame of interpretation, it is hence possible to describe elections as institutions that aim both to validate and negotiate the existent power relations between the governing and the governed. Consequence of a simple syllogism, it is possible to assert that if Israel is a democracy and if elections are essential moments in a democratic setting, then the political institutions of popular vote and the (s)election of a legitimated ruling-class are highly relevant issue that require focused investigations. …

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