Saturday, December 22

Israel's Creeping Election Fever

English: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politician
English: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politician (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Map of Israel, the Palestinian territories (We...
Map of Israel, the Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip), the Golan Heights, and portions of neighbouring countries. Also United Nations deployment areas in countries adjoining Israel or Israeli-held territory, as of January 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main characteristic of Israel's elections these days is the changing of party allegiances. Stalwart members are leaving their parties because of their failure to work with the leaders of their respective parties. The main issues that should be on the various parties’ agendas are conspicuous by their absence. The biggest issue should be breaking the deadlock of the moribund peace process. There is just nothing happening  in that direction.

Time is moving against Israel as the Palestinian rulers in Gaza are becoming more radicalized, especially after the Pillar of Defense war and following close on that was Khaled Mashal's visit to Gaza and his extremist, uncompromising speech.

Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech in the UN after Pillar of Defense requesting raising observer status to a higher notch, just short of total recognition of Palestine being a full UN member. This allowed Palestine recourse to the International Criminal Court at The Hague to prosecute Israel for so-called "war crimes" against the Palestinian people. His speech in the UN General Assembly was uncompromising and perhaps the tone of his speech was to placate the Hamas leadership in Gaza as   well as the Hamas cells in the areas under his control in the West Bank.  He embraced this tactic in his speech possibly because he knows that Hamas is breathing down his  neck, endangering his authority, which is weak. Israel is engaged in weakening Abbas even further. Abbas is the most moderate Palestinian leader with whom Israel can negotiate.

Israel's response was building more settlements thus weakening Mahmoud Abbas even more and strengthening Hamas. Hamas claims that Mahmoud Abbas has achieved no progress with Israel and all that remains is the armed struggle to achieve a Palestinian state. Instead of freezing settlements, PM Netanyahu decided to increase settlement building in the E1 areas around Jerusalem ,which strengthens the Hamas position against Abbas. This was not only a pathetic, nonconstructive tactic but also did further damage to Israel's  battered image in the world. This move was political as Netanyahu faces an extreme right wing threat at  home from the Bayit Hayehudi Party which is the old National Religious Party that had ceased to exist and now reincarnated into a right wing monster. The leader is a forty year old wealthy, charismatic, religious, extremist, Naftali Bennett, who opposes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state  as mentioned in PM Netanyahu's famous Bar Ilan speech recognizing a two state solution.

Bennett was Netanyahu's chief-of-staff and he was dismissed by Netanyahu. Now he is viewed as a threat on the right. It seems that the increased building in E1 is a tactical  manoeuvre to diminish the Bennett threat on Netanyahu's hegemony. Bennett sees himself as being part of the Netanyahu coalition after the elections “to move Netanyahu in a more right wing direction”. There is no doubt that Likud-Beteinu will win the elections and Netanyahu will continue as prime minister. The coalition will be even more right wing and will be less sensitive to world condemnation of Israel's illegal settlement building policies in the occupied areas. Naphtali Bennett will be a thorn in Netanyahu's campaign so in order to get more votes, Netanyahu must show himself to be more supportive of illegal settlements by deeds rather than by words to neutralize the “Bennett threat”. 

The center and center-left, with Kadima being wiped off the political map, as members are leaving in droves to new parties or retiring from politics altogether, are in a mess. Amazing how they received the highest number of mandates in the previous 2008 elections and could not form a government. As electioneering moves into higher gear and becomes fiercer, the left of center are attacking each other rather than the right-wing who will soon be the winners after the elections. This weakens the left even further.

The electioneering will be over social issues and economics and not about getting the peace process back on track as this is not a vote catcher. The fact that peace with our Palestinian neighbors ensures less defense expenditure, no more wars, and a thriving economy both for Israel and the Palestinians does not seem to be the concern of the majority of the electorate. This philosophy is so far on the  back-burner that we will be in for a rough ride after the elections both internationally and internally.There are now disturbances in Hebron, the capital of Jewish religious extremism and racism which could ignite a third intifada.

The extreme right wing firebrand, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beitenu, the Likud's partner, is being indicted for corruption and he will be out of the race for the time being. He is pulling strings to get his court case heard before the elections so that he could enter the race, but this is not going to happen.

One thing is almost certain, after the elections, no political party will win an absolute  majority as has been the case since Israel's establishment. The reliance on coalition building by Netanyahu (Likud-Beitenu will win without a doubt) will occur. No party in the centre or centre left has ruled out joining a Likud-Beitenu coalition. There are many people who are not Likud-Beitenu supporters and would not like to see the party of their choice join a Netanyahu-led coalition. None of the parties Avodah, Tnua, Yesh Atid, Kadima (or what's left of it, if anything) and the religious ultra-Orthodox parties have ruled out joining a Likud - Beitenu coalition. The temptation of cabinet posts and  seats in the wheeling and dealing after the elections is so strong that all the pre-electoral arguments and promises are soon forgotten as ideologies are  compromised for a delicious position in a macabre coalition of fortune seekers and  ego-seeking cabinet ministers.

This being the case it leaves the voter with few choices if he/she wishes to exercise their right to vote.

One can cast a vote for a party that has pledged not to join a Likud-Yisrael Beitenu coalition. Meretz and the various Arab Parties are alternatives as they have pledged not to be part of the right wing coalition. 

The Arab Parties, Ram-Tal and Balad are no options as they are sectarian and do not represent the interests of all Israeli citizens.They seem to be more concerned about the plight of Palestinians beyond the borders of Israel and less of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens (Israeli Arabs). There is much work to be done in this sector of the population, who do suffer from some discrimination and do not identify with Israel's national symbols. They need an identity which can be an integral part of  Israel. 

The other party is Hadash which theoretically believes in a total dichotomy between all Israel's citizens. This is justifiable and praiseworthy. However they are doctrinaire and their attitude to the massacres of Syrians by Assad of Syria is dubious.This means that their commitment to democracy is unclear.

This leaves us with only one option - Meretz. This party is strong in its commitment  to human rights irrespective of race, color and creed. It is for separation of state and religion and against religious coercion. It is also more vocal on getting the negotiations on peace with the Palestinians back on track and taking it off the back-burner as most of the other parties have done. This party is a social democratic party - the only one in Israel contrary to what Shelly Yachimovich claims about Avodah.

There is no doubt that in the difficult  cul-de-sac situation with the  Palestinians, it is in Israel's best interests to negotiate with President Abbas and his team leaving Hamas out of the picture altogether until they climb down the tree of their fantasies of not recognizing Israel's right to exist and continuing their aggression against the "illegal Zionist entity" as they call it, believing that Israel must be destroyed.

The only way to arrive to negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas as the representative of the Palestinians is to close the border hermetically with Gaza so that there will be no communications between Gaza and the West Bank via Israel. If Palestinians wish to travel to the West Bank, they can go via  Egypt, which has open borders with Gaza. After all, Hamas is an offshoot of the  Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt so let Egypt supply electricity to Gaza and foodstuffs as well as other essential items. Israel owes Gaza nothing as it is ruled by Hamas. Israel must lift the siege off Gaza and Egypt must take responsibility, aided by UN monitors,  for any weapon smuggling into Gaza, whether by land, sea or air. Gaza must be Egypt's responsibility in every sphere as the Muslim Brotherhood’s ally, Hamas, rules Gaza with total independence and that should mean no goods or aid from Israel either. A situation must be created whereby there is a Palestinian Spring in Gaza that overthrows the evil Hamas and its terrorist allies which rules the Gaza Palestinians with tyranny. Everything pertaining to Gaza is in the hands of Egypt. Israel must ignore Gaza and only worry about terrorism that comes from that place.

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