• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Israeli Elections: The Center Cannot Hold

    Max Blumenthal says "centrist" parties will likely join Netanyahu's coalition and push even harsher measures against Palestinians and isolate Orthodox Jews -   March 15, 13
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

    I support the real news because they deal with real issues, not meaningless articles and sound bites - Gary
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post,, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His most recent book is Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.  His other book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.


    Israeli Elections: The Center Cannot HoldPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And now joining us from Ramallah and the occupied West Bank is Max Blumenthal.

    Max is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author of the book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party.

    Thanks for joining us again, Max.


    JAY: So what's your take on the Israeli election results?

    BLUMENTHAL: Well, the election results did surprise me a little. I confess to having followed some of the conventional wisdom that the far-right was going to move into at least an influential position, be in the front seat with Netanyahu. I saw Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and his coalition with Avigdor Lieberman's far-right Yisrael Beiteinu not doing very well. I wasn't surprised that they underperformed. They had expected to get over 40 seats in the Knesset and wound up with about 31.

    But the party that I was following, along with a lot of journalists out here, was called Jewish Home, HaBayit HaYehudi. This is a party led by the former director of the official lobby of the settlement movement, the Yesha Council. His name is Naftali Bennett. He's a 40-year-old high-tech entrepreneur, very politically savvy, sort of attractive, kind of like the Paul Ryan of Israel--very extreme, though. And his platform included openly bringing the right-wing agenda into the open, which means blocking formation of a Palestinian state anywhere in the West Bank, bringing Gaza into a confederation with Egypt, annexing 60 percent of the West Bank, which is already under Israeli control, and bringing all the settlements into what is considered Israel proper, putting the West Bank under a full Israeli security umbrella. And I was sort of fascinated that someone who was projected to get 14 to 16 seats, which would have made him maybe the second-largest party in Israel, third-largest party, was challenging the status quo in such a direct way and was so popular.

    But what wound up happening was that Bennett's Jewish Home party performed very well. They got 12 seats. I mean, the last Knesset, they were, like, this marginal party that had three seats. So they're going to have an influence.

    But the big winner was someone named Yair Lapid from the Yesh Atid party. He's being portrayed in the U.S. as a centrist, and he is in the center of the Israeli political spectrum, whatever that means.

    But who is Yair Lapid and what role will he play in the next coalition government, which is almost certain to be led by Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister? He is now the second-largest party in Israel, this newly formed party. Who is he? No one really knows who he is. He spent a lot of the '90s in Hollywood. He's actually spent way more time in Hollywood than in Washington. He was the head of some mid-level studio in Hollywood. There's a lot of Israelis in Hollywood, and this is sort of a story no one's done. And he's a broadcast TV celebrity in Israel. He's very attractive. He's sort of a blank screen for Israelis to project their ambitions on.

    And what he wound up becoming was a cipher for people's rejection of Netanyahu. Netanyahu's just not an attractive character to a lot of Israelis, but he's the de facto choice, because they always vote for security, and Netanyahu campaigns on security. But here comes Lapid. Now he's the second-largest party.

    What does that mean, especially for the issue that we talk about the most on this outlet, the issue of the Palestinians, the occupation? Does this mean, as The Washington Post said, that Israel has more flexibility in negotiations? I would say no.

    What it means is with Lapid as possibly his foreign minister or one of his top ministerial positions, Netanyahu has more flexibility to solidify the status quo. And by the status quo, I mean continuing to pay lip service to a two-state solution that will never happen and to a peace process that is dead, which Israel killed, and building thousands of settlement units. And that's what Israel's been doing since the dawn of the peace process. It's a clear strategy they have.

    And with Lapid, Israel has more flexibility, because he's not Avigdor Lieberman. Avigdor Lieberman is Israel's current foreign minister. He's the top diplomat. And he is--you know, the person that he--Netanyahu actually can't send him to Washington, because every time Lieberman speaks, he seems to verge on belligerent incitement against Arabs.

    But Lapid understands the U.S. environment. He understands the language that Washington wants to hear. Especially, he understands American pop culture. And this makes him the perfect person for Netanyahu to send to Washington to sweet-talk about the two-state solution while the occupation deepens. And I think that's a terrible scenario for people who care about the rights of Palestinians.

    JAY: Now, so he keeps up the perpetual negotiations. And that's what he talked about. He doesn't talk about finding a solution, Lapid, with the Palestinians. He finds--he talks about decreasing Israel's isolation, so keep up the appearance of negotiations.

    But if Israelis had a chance to express this being fed up with Netanyahu--and we're also told that there's this building resentment of non-religious Jews against the ultra-Orthodox--and they had two ways to express this, through the far-right, which are also anti-Orthodox, or Lapid--and more chose Lapid, a somewhat more moderate version of all this, given the Israeli political spectrum--does that say anything about Israeli public opinion?

    BLUMENTHAL: Well, the opinion of--the secular Israeli opinion, you know, the opinion of Israeli Jews who are secular and the opinion of Israeli Jews who are religious nationalists (and the religious nationalist camp is ascendant; it is the most dynamic force in Israeli society today, and it's dictating the future) are both very resentful of the non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox, who are basically given free benefits and given a free ride and spend their days in yeshivas studying Torah and don't perform army service, because they've been given kind of this bargain because Israel needs to project itself as a Jewish state, and here are the true Torah Jews--they would reject this state openly if they weren't given this bargain. So a confrontation is definitely looming with the ultra-Orthodox.

    I think the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel's becoming politicized. These are people who embrace a insular, cloistered, and even medieval lifestyle, but who really have no interest in dominating the Palestinians. They just want to be left alone. And so I personally really reject the resentment towards the ultra-Orthodox that we hear so much in liberal circles in the U.S. and in Israel.

    But the only clear position of Yair Lapid and the Yesh Atid party that I can discern is forcing the ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian citizens of Israel to perform either national service or join the army. And this is also the position of Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home Party.

    So if Netanyahu wants to keep the ultra-Orthodox out of his governing coalition, which means keeping the Shas party and one other ultra-Orthodox party out of the coalition, then he has to go with a combination of Yesh Atid and Jewish Home, which gives Jewish Home a very important role, sort of the third partner. They also, I think, are going to be more influential than Yesh Atid because they have a clear ideology, a clear plan, and a clear blueprint for what they want to see happen. So definitely the ultra-Orthodox issue is going to influence the composition of the next governing coalition.

    JAY: So you could actually have a situation where there's supposedly return or a call for return to negotiations, but in substance even being more obstinate about any concessions to the Palestinians.

    BLUMENTHAL: Well, Netanyahu's been doing that as a strategy since 2009. In 2009, at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, which is sort of like the university that's the home of the religious nationalists [unintel.] Netanyahu called for two states, and, you know, recently just authorized thousands of settlement units in the E1 sector, which would permanently sever occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank. So you see there's this clear strategy. And then he attacks Abbas for not returning to the negotiation table, which, you know, no Palestinian leader, no matter how much of a puppet they are, could do.

    And so you have Yair Lapid. Where does he stand on these issues? What does Yair Lapid believe? He's given some signs that he has almost no difference in policy with Netanyahu in terms of the Palestinians. He has said in--first of all, he opened his campaign at Ariel, which is an illegal megasettlement that cuts deep into the West Bank. That was a symbolic move. And when he opened his campaign there, he said, let's get rid of the Palestinians. Lapid didn't mean, let's eliminate them. He didn't mean, let's transfer them. He meant, let's completely surround them with fences and checkpoints and separate from them entirely, which is also Netanyahu's strategy, while they carry out kind of a slow-motion program of unofficial annexation in the parts of the West Bank that are dominated by settlers.

    In 2007, Lapid wrote a really striking editorial in which he said, you know, the occupation is bad, but if we end it, I will die and my whole family will die because Palestinians are endemically violent. He invoked the image of his family being killed with an axe on a street by a Palestinian. So he said, we need to maintain those checkpoints and those walls, as bad as they are. He rejects the idea of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem outright.

    And on the issue of African asylum seekers, which has become a major issue in Israeli society, Yair Lapid favors--and this is almost a direct quote--rounding them up, placing them in detention camps, and deporting them all. He campaigned on that.

    So I see no difference between him and Netanyahu on the issue of Palestinians or non-Jews living inside Israel. He also, it's worth mentioning, rejected a coalition, rejected including Arab parties in the coalition, which would have allowed them to keep the far-right Jewish Home Party out of the coalition.

    JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Max.

    BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me.

    JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting