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No Democracy Without Peace in Israel

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Faustian pact with the far right may have clinched him a narrow victory in the latest election, but it has come at the expense of Israel's democracy as well as its security. Those who still yearn for peace have no choice but to keep hope alive and await a generation of more enlightened leadership.

MADRID – Having secured a fifth term (and his fourth in a row) as Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu is on his way to surpassing David Ben-Gurion, the state’s founding father, as his country’s longest-serving leader. Yet Netanyahu’s Israel would hardly be recognizable to Ben-Gurion, who strived to combine the country’s Jewish character with democracy. As L.P. Hartley wrote in the opening of The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

While Israel’s Jewish character has been strengthened, its democracy has been battered, and Netanyahu’s re-election could sound its death knell. He has already signaled his intention to annex swaths of the West Bank where there are illegal Jewish settlements, and some of his allies want to go even further, by bringing the entire territory under Israel’s absolute control.

In any case, the prospect of a two-state solution is fading from view, and demographic realities are such that Israel will be able to preserve its Jewish identity only by sacrificing its democracy. As if to drive the point home, in this election, Netanyahu’s Likud party installed cameras at polling sites in Arab communities, leading to allegations of voter intimidation. It would be naive to think that Netanyahu’s ploys were mere electoral gimmicks: there are many reasons to believe that he will not moderate his behavior in his coming term in office.

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