Election takes Israel's finger off trigger for war with Iran

The surprising results of Israel's election sent a message to Netanyahu not to be so trigger-happy in his threats toward Iran's nuclear program. The rise of centrist parties also sends a moderating message to the Middle East.

AP Photo
Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, gestures in Tel Aviv, Israel, after a surprise showing of his party in the Jan. 22 parliamentary elections.

The world can breathe a sigh of relief following Israel’s parliamentary elections on Tuesday. Voters there sent a clear message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take his finger off the trigger in his threat to attack Iran.

The center and pro-peace political parties gained a surprising number of seats against Mr. Netanyahu’s rightist coalition partners, although it may take weeks of negotiations before their clout is seen in a new government. But the point is made to the prime minister: Follow President Obama’s advice and don’t preemptively attack Iran’s nuclear facilities for now. Give economic santions and diplomacy a chance.

The election had a second message for those outside Israel, mainly for Arabs and Iranians.

Israel has long been a model of multiparty pluralism for suppressed Middle East masses. But this election, coming after the initial success of the Arab Spring in 2011, reinforced the merits and meaning of democracy. Israeli voters made clear that their leaders must be more transparent, fair, and accountable to domestic needs and less politically self-serving – a similar refrain held from Tunis to Tehran.

Case in point: Nearly half of the Knesset’s 120 seats will be filled by new faces. And the startling rise of a new party, Yesh Atid (There Is a Future), points to strong sentiments for moderation and inclusiveness in a very divided Israeli society.

The election is less clear about what Israel might do – or rather should do – to help create a nonmilitant, prosperous Palestinian state. While the rise of centrist parties may lead to less building in Jewish settlements on the West Bank, Israeli voters also didn’t endorse any big moves in the peace process or toward a two-state solution.

Palestinian leaders are too divided to offer a credible negotiating partner. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have yet to patch up their differences over Israel’s right to exist. And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s future is in doubt.

Still, the election results may help calm a Middle East in upheaval. Syria’s violent revolution could convulse the region if it results in chaos. Iran faces new elections, which could ignite another “green” revolt by disillusioned youth. Egypt’s new democracy needs regional stability to cope with severe economic challenges and questions over Islamic governance.

A more centered Israel, one that can now work more closely with the Obama administration, could be a force for resolving some of the region’s problems. Most of all, the lessening of the possibility of an Israel-Iran war is just what the Middle East needs. Israelis, more so than the outgoing Israeli government, may now be a more suitable partner for peace with the United States.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.