Posts Tagged Netanyahu
This is getting to me.
1. There is an even left-right split
This seems to be a the conventional wisdom, even amongst Israeli publications that should, and do, know better.
Haaretz: “right-wing to take 61 seats, center-left 59.”
Jerusalem Post: “Final election count: Right bloc 61, Center-Left 59 seats.”
Or in graphic form (which is slightly outdated – before the last seat had been properly allocated):
This is a lie, don’t believe it. The real picture looks like this (although I don’t fully agree even with this one):
Courtesy of Shmuel Rosner.
You see, Israel does not simply have ‘left’ and ‘right’ parties like we are used to in two-party system countries like Australia, the US, the UK etc. Israel has a lot of different factions, none of which the media seem to be aware of. I can only pin this down to lazy journalism and/or media groupthink. Below are a few of the incorrect assumptions that are being made in this calculation.
2. The Arab bloc
For starters, it is useless including the Arab parties in the ‘left’. This is because ‘Arab parties’ is not really what they are, a more accurate description would be the ‘anti-Zionist parties’. A lot of the Zionist parties have Arabs on their tickets, and Chadash – the communist party that is normally counted in the ‘Arab bloc’ – has Jewish candidates. Meanwhile, a lot of the Arab voters in Israel actually vote for Zionist parties because, believe it or not, many of them care about domestic economic and social issues, and aren’t just driven to destroy Israel like Arabs are ‘supposed’ to be.
The point here is that at least Balad and Ta’al, and probably Chadash too – which hold 3, 4, and 4 seats respectively – would never join a governing coalition with anyone from the Zionist left. That means that the ‘left bloc’ could win 71 seats and still not be able to form government, as 11 of those seats would refuse to join the coalition.
3. The right-religious bloc
Supposedly, 61 seats went to the right. The breakdown of these were: Likud-Yisrael Beitenu, 31; Habayit Hayehudi, 12; Shas, 11; Yehudat Hatorah, 7.
Once again, this is by no means a cohesive bloc. It is true that, while there is a very significant ideological difference between the secular-nationalist LYB and the national-religious HH, they are both on the right of politics. The other two, however, are not really. Shas and Yehudat Hatorah represent the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community, the difference between them being that Shas is Sephardi (from Middle Eastern countries) and YH are Ashkenazi (from Eastern Europe).
Both are more accurately described as ‘interest groups’ than ‘right-wing parties’. They are happy to join any coalition so long as their demands are met – which are primarily that they continue be able to study torah instead of having paid work, be exempt from national service, have generous government benefits for having a lot of children, and generally have their lifestyles subsidised by the Israeli taxpayers. In essence, the left could deal with them if they were willing to accept these conditions, which has often been the case in past governments. It is a little dishonest, therefore, to include them in the ‘right’.
4. The centrist bloc
At the moment, there are four parties that are referred to as ‘centrist’: Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid’s party), 19; Avodah (Labour), 15; Hatnuah (Tzippi Livni’s party), 7; and Kadima, 3. The one party I have yet to mention is Meretz, which is unambiguously on the Zionist far-left and won 6 seats.
Here’s the rub: I do not remember any other point in history where Avodah was referred to as a ‘centrist’ party. In fact, looking at their platform coming into these elections, they would be giving Trotsky a run for his money. Shelley Yachimovich’s plan to save Israel seems to be along the lines of ‘put everything under government control, tax successful businesses, and increase the size of every public service department’. I am fairly sure that would make her ‘left wing’.
Meanwhile, Hatnuah is essentially comprised of former Avodah leaders who left Avodah because they weren’t being chosen as leaders anymore. I think that qualifies as ‘left’ too.
5. Israel’s new ‘centre-left’ sensation
Now that is in contrast to Yesh Atid. As explained by Michal Koplow, Yair Lapid was not running on a leftist platform at all. In fact, his platform was more in line with the traditional Likudniks than anything else – that would be the Likudniks like Dan Meridor and Ruben Rivlin, who were purged in the primaries due to heavy branch-stacking by the settlement movement. Lapid is actually much closer ideologically to Netanyahu than most of the current MKs from Netanyahu’s own party. He has also been running this entire time very openly intending to join a Likud-led coalition once elected. Yesh Atid are a centre-right party.
So what really happened?
I think Yossi Klein-Halevi said this one best:
Yair’s ideological challenge will be to clarify the political center and give coherence to the instincts of a majority of Israelis. That centrist majority seeks a politics that isn’t afraid to acknowledge the complexity of Israel’s dilemmas. These voters agree with the left about the dangers of occupation and with the right about the dangers of a delusional peace. Centrists want a two-state solution and are prepared to make almost any territorial compromise for peace. But they also believe that no concessions, at least for now, will win Israel legitimacy and real peace. Centrists want to be doves but are forced by reality to be hawks.
I voted for Yair because, as a centrist Israeli, I have no other political home.
Netanyahu, who accepted a two-state solution in principle and then imposed a 10-month settlement freeze, tried to turn the Likud into a center-right party, more pragmatic than ideological and able to attract voters like me. But the ideological right within the Likud revolted. Today’s Likud appears more hospitable to the far rightist Moshe Feiglin than to centrists like Dan Meridor, denied a safe seat in the Likud primaries.
The Israeli media is speaking relentlessly of an even divide between the left-wing and right-wing blocs. That’s nonsense. Yesh Atid isn’t a left-wing party; half of its voters define themselves as right of center. Instead, the rise of Yesh Atid affirms the vigor of the center. Despite the historic failure of every centrist party—Kadima, the last attempt, virtually disintegrated in this election—centrist Israelis continue to seek a political framework.
No one saw this coming, right?
Well, that may be a lie.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to bury the Levy Report, which recommends legalizing most unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank and making it easier for existing settlements to expand, a senior politician who spoke with the premier about the issue told Haaretz yesterday.
I guess this must be awkward for Liam, who said this:
MK is right: Israel won’t be imploding today. But if the reaction from government ministers is anything to go by there will be action, or at least Netanyahu’s hand may be forced further than he’d like, especially as peace talks might be starting to begin again.
This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).
I guess everything after “Mk is right” really was redundant.
Far be it from me to gloat.
There are still too many people talking about Israeli intransigence. In the best rebuke that I have seen of Netanyahu’s various statements in the US last week (as in, the only one that didn’t read as if the author had presupposed that Bibi was wrong and then gone about finding reasons why), former mayor of Jerusalem Jeff Barak writes on why Bibi’s statements made negotiations and a peace deal look further off than ever. And to an extent, he’s not wrong.
This is inevitable, and it’s also the right move for those who wish to maintain Israel’s capital as a Jewish city. There is no escaping it.
As Jerusalem’s former mayor, I know this well, and it’s possible. Those who refuse to discuss it terminate the chances for a peace process. One can speak nicely, stir up rightist radicals and draw applause from the settlers, yet this will not bring peace, genuine negotiations or global understanding [of Israel’s position].”
INDEED, NETANYAHU’S remarks on Jerusalem slammed the door shut on any hope that his government had the slightest intention of entering into negotiations with the Palestinians. His stirring phrases might have boosted his standing in the opinion polls, but opinion polls do not change reality.
That said, there have been a lot of events spurring this supposed intransigence – there are some very good reasons why Israelis are giving up on peace. Elliot Abrahams, a prolific Middle East analyst from the Council on Foreign relations, has outlined all these, shedding light on exactly how far weak Palestinian leadership and confused policy from the Obama administration have allowed the situation to deteriorate.
The incoherence of U.S. policy is summed up in this passage from Obama’s AIPAC speech: “We know that peace demands a partner—which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. . . . But the march to isolate Israel internationally—and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations—will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.” So Israel cannot be expected to negotiate and it must start negotiating.
That is where the president stands after two years of involvement in Middle East peacemaking, and his problems are largely of his own making…We would not be where we are had all three men—Abbas, Netanyahu, Obama—not given up on each other, a striking failure in American diplomacy.
As Abraham points out, this is causing the Israeli public to feel increasingly isolated and jaded, rallying them around those who seem to be taking a principled stand against the pressure that they are receiving from all sides.
British novelist Howard Jacobson summed this up well on Australian TV recently, observing that everyone points fingers at Israelis without trying to understand exactly how they feel and why they do what they do.
The Israeli Government has to deal with the problem that the people with whom it must negotiate – some of the people with whom it must negotiate say you’ve got no right to exist. You do not have any. So they’re frightened. Well, blow me the Israelis are frightened. It’s not often understood how frightened Israelis are. They are there surrounded on all sides by people who would like them not to be there.
As Larry Derfner wrote in the the Jerusalem Post, this sense of fear and isolation leads to exactly the policies that then spark further condemnation, which continues the spiral toward further fear.
Remember the hysteria over the coriander menace? Until a year ago, we were stopping coriander and God knows how many other edibles from entering Gaza – in the name of national security! Then the Mavi Marmara sails for Gaza, we shoot it up, the pressure’s on again, and suddenly a long list of previously banned foods – yes, even coriander – is moving into Gaza, and suddenly no one wants to remember how mindless and sheep-like they were to take the army’s and government’s word that this insane policy was necessary to keep Israel safe.
This is the problem with all of the pressure on Israel and the relentless condemnation of everything Netanyahu does – ironically, rather than forcing Israel to make concessions and advancing whatever vestige of hope there may be for a resumption of negotiations, it only increases the Israeli public’s sense of helplessness and drives public opinion to the right. As Abrahams points out, Israelis have made concessions in the past not under fierce condemnation, but rather when they feel that whoever is asking for concessions is on their side and that they are not the only side being forced to do so.
All of this makes life harder for Israel and in a way easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu. When a deeply sympathetic American president asks for concessions and compromises and appears able to cajole some from the Palestinians, which was the Clinton/Rabin and Bush/Sharon combination, Israel must respond. When a president most Israelis regard as hostile pushes them while the PLO leadership turns to Hamas, most Israelis will back Netanyahu’s tough response.
It is absurd to suggest that peace is ebbing away because of Netanyahu. He may have been a factor, but there has been a dramatic failure from the Palestinian Authority and the US to do anything conducive to a dialogue or compromise. At the moment, it looks like the best idea would be to top trying to make peace…and rather, start trying to prevent a war from breaking-out.
Judge Richard Goldstone commented in the Washington Post on an 18-month review of the UN-mandated report that he prepared in September 2009 investigating Israel’s Gaza incursion.
He recognised that Israel did not deliberately fire on civilians and condemned Hamas for doing so and then failing to investigate it.
Our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report…Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothin
At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel.
That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
Funny thing is, Hamas had promised to investigate it – as Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus said last year when the report was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.
We thank our people, all those who support to submit again this report to the human rights committee and all the countries who voted for the report…We will co-operate with this report and we will establish a new committee to investigate.
In fact, take another look at that:
The UN human rights council has endorsed the Goldstone report on Israel’s war on Gaza, which accuses the military of using disproportionate force as well as laying charges of war crimes on Israeli occupation forces and Hamas.
The council’s resolution adopting the report was passed in Geneva by 25 votes to six with 11 countries abstaining and five declining to vote.
Terror attack in Gaza
Apparently, firing on a school bus was in self-defence, so said Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhum on April 7 while taking responsibility for a rocket attack on a school bus in Southern Israel.
The resistance movement’s response to the enemy’s massacre comes as self-defense, and to protect the citizens. It aims to pressure the occupier to stop committing crimes.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague didn’t quite agree:
This is a despicable and cowardly act that stands in stark contrast to people’s desire for peaceful reform across the region. Violence will never deliver peace. I reiterate that Hamas must halt these strikes immediately, and rein in other militant factions in Gaza.”
Neither did the US State Department:
We condemn the attack on innocent civilians in southern Israel in the strongest possible terms as well as ongoing rocket fire from Gaza. We have reiterated many times there is no justification of the targeting of innocent civilians and those responsible for these terrorist acts should be held accountable…We are particularly concerned about reports that indicate the use of an advanced anti-tank weapon in an attack against …Any attack on innocent civilians is abhorrent but certainly the nature of the attack is particularly so.
Neither did Netanyahu, although he did offer to stop escalating tensions on April 10:
No other country would be willing to countenance the intentional firing of an anti-tank missile at a children’s bus, to say nothing of criminal attacks against civilians, and Israel is certainly not willing to accept it.
Today, the Cabinet instructed the IDF to do whatever is necessary to stop the firing at our people and restore quiet to the south. This is our intention. I hope that this will be Hamas’s intention as well. If this is what it intends, then quiet will return. If it steps up its aggression, it will feel our arm and our response will be much harsher.
According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas also wants a ceasefire. Although, he admitted that the military wing is a little out of control.
The Palestinian groups are only defending themselves and our people. We do not intend to inflame the situation but we can not keep quiet when faced with aggression…We didn’t know that the bus was carrying children. It was driving on a road which is often used by Israeli military vehicles, which is often targeted by armed Palestinian group
There is coordination with the political leadership over the bigger picture but on the ground, it is the armed wing which decides the appropriate time to respond to the Israeli aggressions. We give general guidance about what stance to take in response to Israel’s position, but the armed wing has freedom of action and decisions made in the field are not the responsibility of the political leadership.
The military wing, of course, don’t particularly want a ceasefire. They are pretty keen to boast about their terror attacks though:
Al-Qassam Brigades’ operations during the last Forty-Eight hours:
First: Targeting a bus was traveling between the Zionist military sites on the strip border, east of Gaza City, at around three o’clock on Thursday, 07.04.2011, near the so-called “Kfar Saad,” the bus was passing in the way of tanks and artillery.
Second: Al-Qassam Brigades within forty-eight hours pounded the Zionist military sites adjacent to the Gaza Strip with 68 rockets and mortars (28 rockets and 40 mortar shells).
Al-Qassam Brigades emphasize the following:
First: The Zionist enemy is responsible for these crimes and escalation in the Gaza Strip, the Zionist arrogance and aggression will not deter us from doing our duty to respond to aggression.
Second: There is no opportunity to talk about calm between us and the occupation at a time Zionist entity bombs our people and committing massacres, but the blood of our people will not be wasted.
Third: We will continue our revolution and our jihad against the occupiers, rand our entire nation and the free world with us until liberating Palestine.
Meanwhile, Israel continued trying to stop weapons reaching Gaza by capping the guys who are smuggling them in, according to this Hamas spokesman:
”He was in Sudan co-ordinating new smuggling routes for weapons arriving from Iran, which then pass through the border into Egypt, across to the Sinai and into Gaza. No one but Israel could have been responsible for the attack.”
Bob Brown figures that BDS might have cost them Marrickville:
I think it had an effect on [the election] – that’s my feedback from the electorate and it’s no doubt something that the NSW Greens will be looking at.
Lee Rhiannon, however, reckons that BDS just wasn’t explained well:
Months before the election we needed to explain why the Greens backed BDS and we needed to work closer with our allies on BDS – academics, the Arab community and social justice movements in Sydney and MelbourneCollectively we didn’t do enough to amplify support for BDS and show that this is part of an international movement.
Kevin Rudd, however, doesn’t agree:
Senator-elect Rhiannon’s stand on a boycott of Israel is just plain loopy. But it’s more than just loopy. It verges on the dangerous. It’s dangerous because it reflects no analysis of the complexity of the Middle East peace process, nor of what Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trying to do, nor of what (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister (Salam) Fayyad are doing with their own direct engagement with Israel. This is the stuff of foreign policy being made by pre-schoolers. The whole principle of BDS…is unacceptable to Australia and ineffective in driving any real outcome in the peace process.”
Syria and the UN Human Rights Council
Last but not least, it’s ok that Syria is going to be voted onto the UNHRC unopposed, because it really cares about human rights, at least according to its UN ambassador.
The so-called turmoil does not affect our candidacy, these are two different issues… Syria considers that the protection of human dignity and fundamental rights are the base of freedom, justice and peace. Promotion and protection of human rights are of the highest importance to Syria.
Again, the US doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye:
We are deeply concerned by reports that Syrians who have been wounded by their government are being denied access to medical care. The escalating repression by the Syrian government is outrageous, and the United States strongly condemns the continued efforts to suppress peaceful protesters. President Assad and the Syrian government must respect the universal rights of the Syrian people, who are rightly demanding the basic freedoms that they have been denied.
Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saed Erekat came out today and said that peace talks are now over. As if this were actually news:
“The talks [with Israel] have ended,” Erekat declared. “The government of Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to scrap all what was agreed upon in previous sessions of negotiations. They want to take us back to point zero.”
He added that the Netanyahu government’s platform was based on settlements, dictates, walls, incursions, assassinations, sieges and closures.
The talks have ended and it’s time for the Palestinians to make decisions, he said without elaborating.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu himself seems to disagree with Mr Erekat – coming out and saying that actually, Israel would have committed to another settlement freeze, but the US wouldn’t promise not to ask for more when (and this is definitely not “if”) the peace talks failed again. He re-iterated that he wants peace and it’s actually Erekat’s camp that’s holding everyone up:
Israel was willing to extend the settlement freeze for another three months but decided not to “because the US said that what would happen is that we’d end up spending a lot of political capital, and on the 91st day, they [the Palestinians] would ask for more,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday during a speech to foreign journalists.
Netanyahu reiterated that “no coalition will prevent me from pursuing a peace that I believe in. If I move forward with a peace agreement, it means I believe in it, and I can get the support of the Israeli public.”
Speaking about the Palestinians, the prime minister said, “I hate to use cliches, but this is a cliche I have to use. The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
He added, “There is no shortcut for negotiations, the only way to get to peace is negotiations.”
On the other side of things, an Iranian newspaper has called Wahhabism, the Saudi Arabian brand of Islam, the “dark side of Islam“. They even had that awesome picture above with the half Saudi and half Israeli keffiyeh, just to show how Saudi Arabia is in league with the Jews. Makes sense, right?
Well probably not for close Saudi ally Egypt. See, Egyptian sensors have stalled their decision on whether to classify upcoming Hollywood flick Fair Game because there is an Israeli actress in the movie, which apparently doesn’t sit well with Israel’s closest ally in the Arab world and one of only two Arab countries to recognise Israel. Seems fair enough to me, those Israelis can’t really act.