It has often been remarked, arguably with mild satisfaction, that there are no permanent enemies in politics.
This was reinforced on Wednesday with the “breaking news” on an election-year turnabout from Jerusalem ~ Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is now openly courting the support of the country’s Arab minority segment prior to the fourth election in less than two years. Quite a change for a head of government who has often condemned the Arabs as a “potential fifth column”, helmed by terrorist sympathisers.
Unmistakeable is the element of desperation in what has been called “Netanyahu’s political somersault”.
It is pretty obvious too that electoral exigence has influenced his preference.
The conflict between the Arabs and the Jews has defined the Middle East narrative, indeed the fement, for as long as it has. The feelers have now been advanced by the Israeli Prime Minister and no less.
As the head of a traditionally antagonistic government, he has distinctly deviated from the historically core irritant of the region.
There is speculation in Jerusalem that the relative absence of incitement against the community and the potential break-up of an Arab party alliance could impinge on the turnout to Netanyahu’s advantage.
He may even garner just enough votes to effect a swing of the electoral pendulum.
Should that happen, it will signify a watershed development in the Middle East. Indeed, Netanyahu’s overtures to Arab voters has astonished the community.
The Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties that secured a record 15 seats in the 120-member Knesset last March, is wallowing in a dispute over whether or not it should work with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.
And not the least because when the less objectionable centreleft parties are in disarray. If Netanyahu’s overture is reduced to a fizzle, the Arabs might have to make do with a truncated representation in the Knesset.
The challenge for the next government could be forbidding given the crime wave, persistent inequality, and ballooning umemployment that is embedded in the coronavirus pandemic. But considering the complexities of Israel’s coalition system, a breakaway Arab party could gain influence if it is willing to work with Netanyahu and/or other traditionally hostile politicians.
The geopolitical trend was apparent last week when Netanyahu visited Nazareth, the largest city in Israel with a predominantly Arab majority. In point of fact, it was his third visit to an Arab district in less than two weeks. Arabs constitute 20 per cent of Israel’s population.
They face widespread discrimination and even blame the seemingly lax lawenforcement in Israel for the rising crime graph and violence within their community. They have close familial ties with Palestinians and largely identify with their cause.
Further, they are said to be sympathetic towards Israel’s enemies. Netanyahu is arguably brewing a complex cocktail.