Wednesday, December 24

The Israeli Elections and Violence

All the political parties have had their primaries and will be going into the field to capture the votes of their supporters. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the Likud and its potential right wing partners will win these elections. This will be detrimental to Israel and Palestinian interests in the movement towards peace. Now, the peace process has stalled and this is what the right wing block wants. It means that they will leave the situation as it is. This also means the settlements will remain and the tension between Israel and the Palestinians will increase.

Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister. All we seem to get are lack luster leadership in the main political parties. The cease fire between Hamas in Gaza and Israel ended on 19th December 2008. It remains to be seen whether there will be an increase of violence in the near future. As the situation is now, Hamas has been firing Qassam rockets into Israel and it will be a matter of time before the situation deteriorates further.

It is hard to understand what Hamas is trying to achieve by escalating the violence. They are inviting an Israeli Army action which will be disastrous for the Palestinians. Their actions are suicidal and the threat to the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is real. If the Israeli Army decides to enter Gaza with all its forces, Gilad Shalit’s life could be placed in jeopardy. Hamas is the Gaza Palestinian’s choice and this is the group with whom Israel has to negotiate. While Hamas has no interest in negotiating with Israel as it does not wish to recognize Israel, the difficulties of negotiating under these circumstances makes it impossible.

Hamas is playing with fire. They have no interest in peace and coexistence with Israel. Even democracy for the Palestinian people in Gaza is not in their lexicon. It is a matter of time before they get what is coming to them from the Israeli Army. The closures in Gaza, the economic squeeze on the Palestinian population is not going to help to improve the situation. Hamas must be held accountable for the untold suffering of the Palestinian population in Gaza. Their intransigence and violence towards Israel and their own opponents in Palestine are factors that prolong Palestinian suffering in Gaza. The message of Hamas is clear. They are a selfish, power hungry group of terrorists who can only survive by ensuring that the suffering of the Palestinian people continues. Economic hardships and Palestinian suffering somehow is Hamas’s strength. They initiate violence and the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel in order to provoke an aggressive Israeli response which they would turn into a victory by accusing Israel of aggression. They also hope that they can get improved conditions for a cease fire from their point of view. It looks as if they are on the road to brinkmanship. They are trying their luck to the point where Israel may be on the eve of a massive air strike of which they might stop short at the last minute once a renewed cease-fire is declared with Egypt’s mediation. There is no doubt that Hamas is a cancer in Palestinian society that rules Gaza by tyranny. In the coming days there will be an acceleration of Qassam rockets into Sderot and other areas in Southern Israel.

There has been further firing of rockets into the south of Israel – 18 rockets in all. There does not seem to be a cessation of this terrorist activity at all. Following the ongoing rocket fire, Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the defense establishment to cancel the planned transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, Israel decided to allow the delivery a limited amount of humanitarian equipment at 11 am Wednesday 24th December 2008, but the crossings are now slated to remain closed.

Meanwhile, Israel is carrying out limited air strikes against the Qassam launchers but this is not going to make any dent in the Hamas ability to carry on the violence.

While this is going on, the main political parties in Israel are gearing up for the elections in February 10th 2009. As I said, the trend is towards the right; the Labour Party will be trounced like never before in its history. Kadima will take second place and after the elections, it will be part of the Likud coalition and so will the Labour Party. Ehud Barak, the Labour leader may even retain the Defense portfolio under the Netanyahu Likud government that is on the cards, according to statistics. Those Israeli citizens who have the vote must be made to realize that a vote for any of these 3 parties is a vote for a right wing coalition because that is what we are going to receive.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the rejuvenated Meretz Party which has attracted quite a few well known Labour Party celebrities who have left the Labour Party, which over the last decade or so has lost its direction and is prepared to sit in coalitions with right wing parties that are theoretically diametrically opposed to Labour Party ideology or what is left of it. The Meretz Party’s performance in the last Knesset has been poor, it had not been outspoken on many issues like the peace process, and social issues as it had been in the past. It is doubtful if the new Meretz Party will gain more support than what it has now. It may gain an extra seat or two in the Knesset.

The Shas Party will as usual resort to religious extortion as they have done in the past. They will be part of the right wing coalition after the elections.

The rest of the parties are marginal. The environmental parties will not gain any seats in the Knesset and a vote for them will be futile if not a total waste.

The serious voter will remain confused for whom to vote. A vote for the right wing is a vote for the settler movement and the continuation of the occupation. Hamas provides the right wing with the ideal fuel for that! While Hamas maintains its anti-Israel stance, the right wing in Israel will be pleased and will score a victory in the elections.

The coming elections will, unfortunately, be another wasted opportunity – an exercise in marking time to continue the occupation. This will be further emphasized as election fever heats up and the right wing of Israel becomes the next government.

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