Editorial Exchange: Israel's Election a Rebuke to Benjamin Netanyahu and Far Right

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Israel's election a rebuke to Benjamin Netanyahu and far right

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Jan. 23:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "won" Israel's hotly contested election in the sense that he has the best shot at retaining power at the head of a conservative coalition. But that was no great surprise. What was a surprise was how poorly he and other right-wing actors fared at the ballot boxes. The voters gave his Likud-led ticket and other hardliners a sharp rebuff on Tuesday and moved smartly to the centre.

In effect, moderates stole the right's thunder in this campaign. As the election's biggest winner centrist Yair Lapid put it, Israelis said no to "the politics of fear and hatred," to social splintering and to extremism. That raises some hope in the Middle East and further afield that the country's long rightward drift may be coming to an end.

Survive though it has, the Netanyahu government richly deserved this rebuke. While making little effort to re-engage with the Palestinians on peace talks, it has speeded up settlement construction and strained ties with the United States and other allies. Critics also fault it for its fiercely nationalist tilt, for squandering resources on the coddled ultra-Orthodox minority, for harassing the Arab minority and for subverting the judiciary and the media.

Indeed, the liberal newspaper Haaretz went so far as to describe this election as a chance "to halt Israel's slide into political isolation, fascism and apartheid." Strong words, to be sure. But they captured something of the spirit of the moment. …