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January 28, 2013, Monday


Parliamentary elections in Israel were held on Jan. 22. The election results hold some signs of change, showing that Benjamin Netanyahu is still popular even in his third term. The high turnout rate during the elections also proves that the polarization and tension between the Israelis seeking peace and the new Israeli citizens who view Arabs as enemies has escalated.

The Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, founded by Yair Lapid in 2012, has become representative of the Israeli middle class. Lapid says that East Jerusalem should remain with Israel, but he also wants a resumption of peace talks with Palestinians. Should he become foreign minister in Netanyahu's cabinet, Lapid may take some positive steps towards Turkey. Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home Party represents the growing power and influence of settlers who have recently acquired Israeli citizenship and live in the occupied Palestinian territories despite the fact that it is a recently formed party. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, 2.5 million Jews migrated from former Soviet countries to Israel. These Russian-speaking people support the radical religious parties in Israel.

Israel, which has a relatively small population and land area, is comparable to an island in the Middle East which consists predominantly of Arab countries. In addition, given that it holds the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the West Bank under occupation and Gaza under blockade, it is understandable why Israel pays the utmost attention to security. For this reason, Israel has a religious and security-focused and oriented state and civilian life.

The parliamentary elections demonstrated that the established middle class is tired of the war environment in Israel. The Israeli middle class wants solutions to social issues. Accommodation and quality education are rather expensive.

Israel is no longer the old Israel because the Israelis who sought a reunion with the “promised land” have grown old. The new generation does not want to fight and die. They just want to make money and lead a good life. The Arabs have improved their military and educational abilities. They are decisive and ambitious. For this reason, the Israeli army is no longer able to conduct land operations. They have to limit their actions to aerial operations.

The West is no longer the old West. Because of this, the West no longer views Israel as the victim all the time. Secondly, despite the fact that it retains its power and influence, Israel is now unable to manipulate the people in the US and Europe. There are now strong Muslim diasporas in the West. The intellectuals and politicians associated with these diasporas now influence Western public opinion. Thirdly, in the aftermath of the occupation of Iraq and the Arab Spring, the US no longer attempts to analyze the Arab world from an Israeli perspective alone.

The Middle East and the Arab world are not the same. The great transformation over the past decade in Turkey, the inheritor of a great empire whose ruled extended north of the Middle East, has taken Turkey closer to the Arab world. Both Arab and other Muslim countries have raised their voices in their interactions with the Western world to express their discontent with the wrongdoings of Israel. Due to the Arab Spring, the people in North African countries now elect their own governments. The removal of Baath nationalism and longstanding dictatorships is still under way. Arab nationalism blended with Islamic values has become the official ideology of Arab states from Egypt to Iraq. Because of the representation of popular will on the political stage, the governments in these countries are now able to stand firm against Israel. A huge security gap on the northern border of Israel will emerge after the collapse of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria in 2013. Regardless of whoever comes to power after Assad, the security gap will become an even graver problem for Israel.

In conclusion, Israel will have to renew itself.

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