WASHINGTON, DC – Decades of efforts to reduce the death toll from drunk driving in the United States produced the mantra, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” After Israel’s election last week, the country’s friends around the world should adopt a similar slogan: “Friends don’t let friends govern blind.”
Israel’s blindness is self-induced. Its government cannot solve the conflict with the Palestinians on Israeli terms, so it has decided to behave as if the entire issue did not exist. Astonishingly, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress earlier this month, his 39-minute speech about Iran’s existential threat to Israel did not contain a single mention of the Palestinian people. Campaigning at home, however, he talked only about the threat some Palestinians pose to Israeli security today, never of the opportunity that other Palestinians offer for peace tomorrow.
Israeli voters chose the politics of fear over the politics of possibility. Whether to support the right or the center-left was a classic choice between guns and butter, security and prosperity.
The Zionist Union, the principal opponent of Netanyahu’s Likud party, focused mostly on domestic issues like housing, the high cost of living, and growing economic inequality. Netanyahu emphasized the threat Israel faces from Iran, the Islamic State, and Hamas. He even added a racist dimension to the fear mongering on Election Day, warning that, “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.”