For Israeli Voters, One Thing Is Paramount: Not Returning to the Bloody Post-Oslo Days

Sept. 10 2019

As Israel’s second election this year draws near, pundits in other countries once again struggle to understand why Benjamin Netanyahu has remained in power so long, with some pointing to a global “populist wave” (that began six years after Netanyahu took office) and others to laments over the supposed decline of Israeli democracy, while still others get caught up in the intricacies of Israeli politics. But, writes Matti Friedman, the real answer is straightforward:

[I]n the decade before Netanyahu came to power in 2009, the fear of death accompanied [Israelis] in public places. There was a chance your child could be blown up on the bus home from school. In the decade since, that has ceased to be the case. Next to that fact, all other issues pale. Whatever credit the prime minister really deserves for the change, for many voters it’s a good enough reason to keep him in power on September 17.

Given the centrality of those years, it’s striking how seldom they actually come up in conversation. Along Jaffa Road, the hardest-hit street, the traces have become nearly invisible. The Sbarro pizzeria where in 2001 a Palestinian suicide bomber killed fifteen people, including seven children and a pregnant woman, is now a bakery with a different name. It’s a few paces from where I’m writing these lines, and it’s full of customers, many of whom probably don’t know what happened there.

[This period of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks] isn’t officially considered a war, even though it killed more Israelis than the Six-Day War of 1967. And no one can say exactly when it began or ended. The attacks picked up in the mid-1990s, [not long after the signing of the Oslo Accords], as Israel pursued a peace deal and ceded land, but the worst came between 2000 and 2004. Though other forms of violence persist, the last Israeli fatality in a Palestinian suicide bombing was in 2008.

[W]hen Netanyahu declares in an election ad that “in the stormy Middle Eastern sea we’ve proved that we can keep Israel an island of stability and safety,” we [Israelis] all know what he means, even if we don’t vote for him. That’s his strongest card, and if he wins, that will be why. The scenario we’re afraid of is clear even if it doesn’t have a name. It doesn’t need one.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at New York Times

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics, Oslo Accords, Palestinian terror

What to Expect from the Israeli Election

Sept. 16 2019

Tomorrow Israelis go to the polls for the second election of 2019, in which the two main contenders will be the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the centrist Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Neither party is likely to have an easy path to forming the 61-seat Knesset majority needed to form a government, a reality that has affected both parties’ campaigns. Haviv Rettig Gur explains how the anomalous political situation has led to something very different from the contest between left-wing and right-wing “blocs” of parties predicted by most analysts, and examines the various possible outcomes:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Liberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics