Fear drives votes, experts in political communication maintain, because the brain processes information related to our security in a way that differs from other forms of news. That early warning system, survival instinct, explains why people are glued to television reports of natural disasters or why a robbery interests them much more than political news. If you want to run a successful news channel, it’s straightforward: just cover floods and lots of crimes.
Now consider Israel, surrounded by existential threats, and it becomes clear why Benjamin Netanyahu is on route to becoming the longest running Prime Minister in its history and why the country’s left, resolutely committed to discussing house prices or, in the distant past, peace with the Palestinians, increasingly resembles an endangered species.
No one can question the Israelis’ right to worry about their security or that these concerns should occupy the centre of political life: few countries in the world face a security problem as extreme as Israel does. The problem is that Netanyahu’s policies are far from guaranteeing the country’s security, despite creating the illusion of doing so. Yes, the peace process with the Palestinians, based on a two state solution, was all but dead. But in officially rejecting its very possibility, as Netanyahu has done during this campaign, he places the international community and the Palestinians in an unsustainable situation. The USA, and above all Obama, will have to decide whether or not to leave the issue for the next president or end his mandate on a note of open confrontation with Israel during election year. Similarly, the Europeans (Spain included) will find themselves forced to act upon their recognition of the Palestinian state which they have yet to do, citing fears of undermining the peace process. They will have to review their relations with Israel, the latter now an illegal occupying power making no attempts to either disguise the fact or justify it as a temporary measure.
Many Israelis seem to be of the belief that their security is due to the political expertise of Netanyahu. He has managed to convince them that the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza blockade not only incurs no costs but that they guarantee their security. But nothing could be further from the truth: if anything explains that sense of security it is the conscious decision of the USA and Europe to look the other way on a daily basis. Of course, the straightforward logic of this argument demands a policy that raises the costs of occupation and undermines that sense of security. But you can be sure; no one on this side will dare break the spell.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.