Saturday, November 22

The Upcoming Israeli Elections and Peace between Israel and the Palestinians

The Israeli General Elections are in the offing and soon the parties will be campaigning in order to win. One does not have to be a genius to realize that no party will gain an absolute majority. The idea of peace between Israel and her neighbours, especially her Palestinian neighbours, will be regarded as a hot potato by the triumvirate (Likud, Kadima and Labor). This will not be given high priority as it should. The party that makes peace as part of its agenda will not gather much votes. Making peace means compromises and this means land exchanges and withdrawals. This is not the stuff of winning in the Israeli Elections. Paying vague lip service to peace is desirable without being specific as to how peace can be achieved.

In a previous article I discussed the dilemma that faces the serious voter in making his choice. There does seem to be a realignment of the left under the Meretz Party banner. It remains to be seen what party line they will take when the election campaign heats up. The performance of the Meretz Party over the last 4-5 years has been disappointing. They are not even the shadow of the party they once were under Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni.

The past week has been a week of vicissitudes. Yakov Alperon, one of the crime gang leaders was assassinated. The stock exchange continues to plunge to new low depths. The “hill top” youths, cladded with the trappings of holiness and religiosity – the kippot (head covering), tsitsit (holy fringes) and peyot (ear locks), went wild, hitting and injuring soldiers who carry out their duty as well as desecrating mosques in Hebron by painting slogans of “Mohammed is a Pig”. They also did tremendous damage to Palestinian property as well as Israeli Army vehicles. Their behaviour has been more than disgusting; I thought to myself, that had these Jewish hooligans been Palestinians, the army would have shot them. They were hardly punished! The excuse – the Israeli Police Force and Army do not have the tools to deal with them! However, they seem to have the tools for dealing with Palestinian lawbreakers. These hooligans seem to be left to their own devices with minimum punishment while the Israeli law authorities gently convince them of their naughtiness and plead with them to stop. No arrests have been made despite the fact that it would be relatively simple to arrest them and make them accountable. There are those who say that they were under age and the law does not provide for their punishment. However, the law does seem to provide for the punishment of under age Palestinians who break the law which often ends in severe injuries to these children if not in death.

This behaviour is the result of their upbringing within the framework of the extremist right wing, despicable settler movements. The settlers make land grabs by stealing Palestinian lands and destroying Palestinian olive groves. Their offspring learn from their parents – goaded by their right wing rabbinical mentors. In order to understand the behaviour of the settlers, it would be a good idea to have some idea of Jewish Fundamentalism. It is not the purpose of this article to go into details about this mutant of Judaism except to say that "Gush Emunim rabbis have continually reiterated that Jews who killed Arabs should not be punished, [e.g.]...Relying on the Code of Maimonides and the Halacha, Rabbi Ariel stated, 'A Jew who killed a non-Jew is exempt from human judgment and has not violated the [religious] prohibition of murder'...The significance here is most striking when the broad support, both direct and indirect, for Gush Emunim is considered. About one-half of Israel's Jewish population supports Gush Emunim." "Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky's "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel"

This unfortunately is the basis of their belief in the Greater Israel concept.

"The state of Israel has become the enemy of the people and the land of Israel," settler Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe said Tuesday 18th November 2008 during an emergency meeting on the state's plan to evacuate a house in Hebron whose ownership has been at the center of a bitter dispute for over a year. When religious leaders make statements of this nature then there are those right wing settlers who take them seriously thus taking the law into their own hands. This opens the door for right wing settler anarchy and violence towards the Palestinians as was witnessed a few days ago.

What does one expect? If the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, allows for the expansion of existing settlements and he is supposed to be the head of the left wing block, then his utterances of peace is cynical and hypocritical. How could one make peace with one’s neighbours while at the same time grabbing their lands or being instrumental in passing laws legalizing theft of Palestinian land for illegal settlements? When the pace of land grabs is not rapid enough for the settlers then they send their children to do the job by taking over outposts and creating havoc against the army and the Palestinians. When one creates a monster to benefit one’s own interests that monster eventually turns against the creator and becomes uncontrollable. Why the outcry when the settlers attack the army that tries to prevent settler violence? The right wing settler rabbis support

Israel is showing signs of becoming an apartheid state. The proof is in the pudding when it is clear that the Jewish hooligans and their siblings in the territories are treated with kid gloves while their innocent Palestinian counterparts are treated more severely when stuck at check posts crossing over to visit their families or attend to the harvesting of their crops where their lands are divided by the security fence.

No government coalition has ever addressed the land grabs by settlers. Instead they pass laws legalizing it and then telling the world that Israel seeks peace. Land grabs, illegal racist settler movements and right wing racist rabbis who are given the green light to be spiritual mentors of the settlers are incompatible with Israel’s desire for peace. This leaves a large question mark as to Israel’s credibility amongst the world of nations. Israel is becoming an expert in double talk.

The biggest obstacle to peace between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours is the settlers. They are creating a situation on the ground making the two state solution more difficult to attain. This leaves the only alternative – a one state or binational state solution. The latter is NOT the creation of anti-Semites as many Israeli supporters maintain, but the creation of facts on the ground by settlers occupying Palestinian lands making the two-state solution more and more unattainable. Today there are more and more forums that are discussing the binational state solution and if there is no total withdrawal, this will be the only game in town as far as solving the conflict is concerned.

According to David Kimche, former director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, and president of the Israel Council for Foreign Relations and a member of the Israel Policy Forum's Israel Advisory Council, says in a recent article in the New York Times that “the concept of a negotiated two-state solution - a Jewish state of Israel living in peace and security alongside an independent, economically viable Palestinian state - that has been widely accepted for more than 15 years is disappearing before our eyes”.

If the contesting parties in the upcoming Israeli Elections do not address this issue of the occupation and withdrawal to the 1967 pre-Six Day War borders, the only conclusion reached will be Israel’s desire to rule over another people using the settlers as a means to achieve that end. This is incompatible with peace. Israel will also continue to remain a colonial, apartheid state with all the dangers entailed.

Saturday, November 8

The US Elections, Israel and Palestine

Ehud Barak

Tzippi Livni

The US Elections have come and gone. Many of us are pleased that Barack Obama had won these elections. For us in the Middle East and especially for Israelis and Palestinians who are desirous of a solution to this conflict that has plagued us for so long, there is perhaps a tiny light at the end of the dark tunnel of frustration. There are no guarantees of course, but there is some hope of a new order.

Israel, on the other hand, is also at the threshold of elections which will be held on 10th February 2009. While the American people voiced their opinion at the polls, showed their disgust with the Bush Administration and viewed John McCaine, the Republican candidate, as a vestige of the hated Bush Administration which explains his defeat and Obama’s landslide victory. The American people deserve the credit for voting for change. They put aside their race prejudices and this was no factor in determining the result. The Stock Exchange crash that occurred was also a factor in determining the result. Economic problems always take precedence over political considerations in determining the winner in this case.

I wish that the optimism for serious change and reform would occur after the Israeli Elections but there is no chance of that. Israelis are not that bold. The best they could do is having two failed prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud, Ehud Barak of Labor and lack luster Zippi Livni of Kadima somewhere in between. She has no achievements to her credit apart from honesty and a clean slate. This seems to be more important these days than having any policy especially in Israel. Policy wise and a direction of true reform and peace with the Palestinians are not in the lexicon of any of the candidates – let alone the pathetic political parties that they represent. The result of the pathetic Israeli elections is a forgone conclusion – a crippled coalition of the 3 main parties with the religious parties tagging on in order to gain financial benefit by extortion. No party will get an absolute majority as usual and there will be a myriad of small parties resulting in much wasted votes.

This coalition will have a right wing slant even with the tacit support of Labour who will cling to the pickings of the coalition after much bickering. Labour will be relegated to be an insignificant political factor with no ideology at all. Ehud Barak, the past prime ministerial failure is more concerned in warming his bottom as prime minister. He and his party will blend into the spineless, jelly fish-like coalition that will be unable to make any decisions for the promotion of peace with the Palestinians and to make the economic reforms that are overdue in Israel. Meretz will all but disappear or may gain at best 4-5 seats which render it ineffectual and weak especially now that it lost two of its senior members in the Knesset, Yossi Beilin and Ran Cohen.

As the situation is now in Israel, there are no Zionist parties worthy of any support. Left wing Zionist parties have lost their direction. They are in total disarray and are virtually moribund. The only viable Zionism that remains today is the ideology of the Likud, Kadima and right wing. This is settler-oriented Zionism and its racists from the pseudo-Kach movements under Noam Federman, the Zionist racist, who are even prepared to fight the Israeli Army to maintain their settlements and abuse the Palestinians even further. These loutish, kippa-cladded hooligans are handled with kid gloves and are detained for a few days at most or released after a few hours by the Israeli Security forces while Palestinians who are involved in similar violence get heavy prison sentences. All this occurs under the auspices of Ehud Barak, the Minister of Defense. This loutish behaviour will drive the two-state solution even further from attainment.

If the Labour Party wishes to improve its chances, it must rid itself of Ehud Barak who is a liability and not an asset. Under Barak’s leadership, Labour will not undergo any revival. The way the settler movement has been handled and the increased theft of Palestinian lands for Jewish settlement under his auspices proves that Barak has no scruples or ideology. He takes the road of pandering even to the right wing. His actions will ensure that the Labour Party gets a thorough drubbing after the elections. Today there is hardly any difference between Labour, Kadima and Likud. Labour has been reduced to a party of wimpish has-beens and pathetic party political hacks. Thanks to pompous Barak of wealthy Kierov Towers in Tel Aviv, he will be credited for destroying the Labour Party’s so-called social democratic fa├žade.

President Bush did very little to facilitate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He was embroiled in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan which had weakened the US as an honest broker. Now with Obama being the future president, he does not carry this baggage and has the potential to be more successful.

The time is overdue for Israel to get a charismatic leader with foresight that will unite the nation and move it towards peace with the Palestinians as well as make the necessary reforms that are so overdue. The power of extortion of the ultra-Orthodox religious Parties need to be curtailed in order to get there. This will not occur and we shall have the nauseating coalition negotiations to produce a lame, no direction coalition after the elections. There are no signs that the Israeli Electorate will assure that a more dynamic and imaginative leadership will arise after the elections. Israel will not follow the example of the US in moving towards any positive drastic changes after the elections. The idea of a Barak, Livni, and Netanyahu triumvirate is also a pathetic possibility if one throws one’s vote away on one of these three main parties.

Sunday, November 2

The Upcoming Israeli Elections

After a period if relative instability because of Prime Minister Olmert’s legal problems, the dye is cast and the country is moving towards general elections. The prime minister-designate, Tzippi Livne, was unable to form a new coalition because of the religious Shas Party’s extortionist tactics and the price they demanded to be included in the coalition. When Shas saw that their tactics did not work, Eli Yishai, the Shas leader, decided to let the racist genie out of the bottle and accuse his negotiating partners of blatant racism against the Sephardim. As illogical as this is, it somehow does bring more of his supporters and potential voters to the fold. The whims of Shas – the narrow and bigoted partisan party – created the fall of the Israeli government.

Now the country will be thrown into an electoral campaign that will not clear up anything. The results will be just as pathetic as in the past elections. No party will gain an absolute majority. One need not be a prophet to predict that.

No matter how one votes one is going to get a shocking coalition – a coalition that will be no credit to anybody and certainly will not advance the peace process with the Palestinians. We are due to have a coalition that is impotent and will move nowhere.

If we look at the choices at the Israel electorate’s disposal, the choices are poor. They are Hobson’s choices.

Kadima is a hotch-potch of ideas – from the moderate right to the moderate left and can take on any political party under its wing. It is a party with no principles. It is an amorphous mass of ideas which will tag onto the Likud, Labour, Shas even the extreme right wing if it serves their interests in getting into power. They are not deserving of the support of the serious voter.

The Likud is more right wing than centre right in its ideology. It does not have what it takes to make peace with the Palestinians. It is hooked on peace with all the settlements intact. It will not offer any compromises with the Palestinians territorially and will ensure that there will never be any peace with the Palestinians for a long time.

Labour has lost its identity. It will be further weakened to being an amorphous mass of has-beens with a miniscule number of Knesset seats. Its ideology has been compromised and it has no direction. It is not social democratic but a shadow of the capitalist-oriented ideology of the Likud and Kadima. It is a bankrupt party. Ehud Barak, the leader, has had a turn at being prime minister and failed. The same can be said of the Likud. Benjamin Netanyahu has also failed as prime minister. Both men have a cheek in having another go at being prime minister. Neither are deserving of support.

Meretz has lost its backbone and has become an irrelevant left of centre party while its core members are leaving in droves. Within the last few days, Yossi Beilin has resigned and following in his footsteps is Ran Cohen, a veteran Meretz Knesset member has announced that he will not be standing for re-election to the Knesset. This party has ceased to be relevant and voting for it is a non-starter. Its ability to fight injustices in the system and to influence the peace process will be further weakened as a result, not that it had much influence anyway.

This leaves the right wing parties and the religious Shas and Torah Judaism Parties. These two parties are not democratic and wish to install a system bound by Torah law. They feather their own nests by tagging onto future coalitions to provide funds for the eternal yeshiva students under their wing that live in poverty and are dependent on state aid and charity. These parties survive on the eternal cycle of poverty of their own creation. They do not wish to give their yeshiva students a broad based education to make them ready to compete for jobs on the open market. The strength of these parties lies in the perpetual poverty and poor education that these students receive. If their supporters and their children benefitted from a broad education these two parties would have no chance of existence. Their strength lies in the poverty of their supporters which they maintain in many ways by stealth, cameos, pseudo-charity institutions, and if I may use the term – spiritual lies! They potentiate poverty for their own benefit. The true leaders of these two parties are bigoted rabbis who make the decisions and their puppets (their Knesset members) carry them out without question.

What is left behind in this pathetic mass of amorphous political parties? The Arab Parties, which are considered taboo and a potential fifth column, are not even considered as potential coalition partners under any circumstances by the mainstream parties.

The Zionist Parties are way off track because Zionism has become irrelevant. The idea of Progressive Zionism is a contradiction in terms. A Zionist is a nationalist and a nationalist is not progressive in any country. The proof is in the pudding. The right wing settler movements claim to be Zionist. The left wing Zionists are in total disarray and this is reflected in the political parties that represent them.

The analytical and thinking voter is left with one of two possibilities. To abstain by placing a white paper in the ballot box or voting for a party that has a clear cut programme such as Hadash, the Arab – Jewish Communist Party. It is a party with no partisan ideology and it is a party of all Israelis – Jewish as well as Arab. This is a party with a reasonable ideology, and although this may be a shocking choice for many people, it certainly deserves serious consideration. The alternative is even more shocking – no movement in any direction in a crippled coalition the day after the elections. This will not create the conditions for a two-state solution. If there is no two-state solution there is only a binational state solution. There is nothing in between.