Elias Harfoush
Al-Hayat (Opinion)
January 25, 2013 - 1:00am

"Live in Israel as if you are living in Europe or the United States." This was the slogan that Yair Lapid used to lure Israeli voters, leading him to second place in the country's recent elections, becoming the kingmaker who will determine the rules of the game in Israel in the coming future.

Israeli voters resorted to the television journalist and answered his call to flee from the reality that they face: frozen negotiations with the Palestinians, the crisis with western allies because of Netanyahu's continued building of settlements and heading off any opportunity to establish a Palestinian state, and the predicament of the dispute with Iran over its nuclear program, which Israel's prime minister used often to issue threats while aware that the real decision to confront Iran lies in Washington.

How can a country that lives amid these fears and struggles, which constitute an existential threat for the Jewish state, close its eyes and deal with things as if the problems surrounding and confronting it are on another planet? This is exactly the option that the Israelis took, based on the results of the recent elections.

Lapid is not known to have any experience in politics and his party, formed to run in the elections, is only a few months old. Nonetheless, he is now being tabbed as foreign minister in the new coalition, while Israelis are hoping that he can get them out of their economic and security crises, and the problem of relations with neighbors and the outside world. It is as if he has a magic solution for all of this, after the country's traditional leaders failed to treat the problems.

What took place in the Israeli elections is similar to what some Arab countries have undergone in the last two years, in the way of popular uprisings against the existing conditions, under the slogan of change. There has been no concern with these insurrections, including the Palestinian issue and the regional crisis between the Arabs and Israel; these issues were absent from the recent Israeli election campaign. Thus, it is no exaggeration to describe these elections as an echo of the "Arab Spring." If the slogans that dominated these popular uprisings focused on domestic matters, and exploited socio-economic crises faced by these countries to call for "toppling the regimes," then the voters of people in Israel were not very different from this. It is true that the Israeli "regime" did not fall, but the traditional party establishments experienced a set-back, whether on the right (Likud) or the left (Labor); these establishments need a salvage process from outside their ranks, and this is an important juncture in the history of Israel's political parties.

The "Arab Spring" was a slap in the face of the regimes that fell and Lapid's election gains, in the face of Benjamin Netanyahu, were described in the same way. The results were delivered by voters who held the Israeli prime minister responsible for the socio-economic problems that led to the uprising of the summer of 2011, which at the time was called the "Israeli Spring."

Commentator Nahom Barnea wrote in Yediot Aharanot the other day that the seeds of the election results were planted in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, when protestors set up anti-government tent cities.

Back then, there was a feeling that the protests were over when the autumn came, and the tents were removed. Perhaps the seeds needed some rain in order to grow, and the rain has finally come!


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