Saturday, March 2

We need a Nelson Mandela!

A peace movement poster: Israeli and Palestini...
A peace movement poster: Israeli and Palestinian flags and the words peace in Arabic and Hebrew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesh Atid Election Night Party
Yesh Atid Election Night Party (Photo credit: The Israel Project)
So much is happening in the Middle East. In Syria the Butcher of Damascus, Bashar al Assad, is having a field day murdering innocent men, women and children by the thousands. The various "Arab Springs" have not yielded results moving towards democracy. Not only is there no democracy the economic situation has not shown any signs of improvement. This means that poverty, unemployment and a poor health system all has to be addressed and there is not much time left in the hands of the rulers for achieving this. Instead, the vacuum created by the fall of the various autocratic regimes have been replaced by Islamist regimes which have made Sharia (Muslim Law) the basis of rule. Freedom and democracy replacing the tyrannic old order has not been achieved.

The Arab countries, who were at the forefront of the Arab Spring, Tunisia and Egypt, have not achieved democracy and the people are becoming dissatisfied because of the lack of progress towards that goal. Demonstrations are becoming common place and the results often end in violence and death.

The situation in the Middle East, especially in Syria, has not ruffled the world as much as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has and still does. This does not mean that the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan is justifiable. It is not. Of course the situation is not ideal and the lack of trust and hate between Israelis and Palestinians is dead-locked. If anything, the situation between Israel and Palestine is becoming more radicalized as a solution to the conflict is receding further away. The two-state solution is viewed as being unattainable as illegal Israeli settlements are being built rather than being frozen.

The Middle East is so volatile.One isolated incident can ignite the whole area. Israel is so busy with coalition building as two right wing parties, Yesh Atid and Bayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home Party) have signed a pact rendering the formation of a coalition under Netanyahu very difficult to achieve if he includes the ultra-Orthodox paties with whom they are not prepared to sit in the Netanyahu coalition. The difference in ideology between these two parties is marginal today. The Yesh Atid Party (There is a Future Party) is such a misnomer because it is a one issue party. It represents a hatred of the ultra-Orthodox parties whom they feel should support compulsory military for ultra-Orthodox who do not share the military burden. It is a pity that many Israelis view this pathetic one-issue party as a panacea to Israel's national priorities. Their attitude towards peace is no different from the right wing settlement oriented parties, who are eroding the two-state solution. It is doubtful if they have any policy on peace which should be Israel's priority, but instead, is being buried in the sand.

Netanyahu is unable to build a coalition because of the Bennett-Lapid bond, which have much in common. Both parties are right wing. Yesh Atid is moving to the right despite its anti ultra-Orthodox stance. They are dragging Bayit Hayehudi into that stance as well. Lapid is no democrat. He has even forbidden his party members not to attend Geneva Initiative meetings which should give us all an idea as to what he really represents. He is showing megalomanic symptoms and wants to be in full control not allowing divergence of opinions on a solution to the serious problem of peace negotiations. Well what can one expect from a party that engages in ultra-Orthodox bashing instead of encouraging the finding of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is a tough and necessary challenge that we all need to face.

A very much weakened Likud-Beiteinu has emerged. It is faced with two options:

1. Signing a coalition agreement with the right wing Yesh Atid-Bayit Hayehudi-Kadima bloc which will give Netanyahu's coalition 70 seats
2. Signing a coalition agreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties and Tnuah (who has already signed an agreement to be in the Netanyahu-led government), which will still not give them enough votes to form a government. They would achieve a maximum of 57 seats. The minimum needed is 61 seats.
3. Calling for new elections which, according to the polls, will weaken Netanyahu even further.
On the face of it all, it seems that there are three options but in reality there are only two options for Netanyahu.

The result either way will be a right wing government with its face towards the status quo of more of the same - entrenching the occupation even further with more Israeli settlements being built in the West Bank resulting in further encroachment on Palestinian lands. This will decrease Israel's standing in the world even further and there will be increased divisions in Israel as well as further estranging Israel's non-Jewish minorities. Attacks on mosques and churches by fringe extremist right wing "Price Tag religious" ear-lock kippa-cladded rabble and their "Hill-Top Youth" allies will also increase. One must bear in mind that these religious extremists are by-products of right wing ideology which is so prevalent in Israel these days.

The need for a Nelson Mandela is more urgent now than ever before. There is no sign that a leader with a Nelson Mandela-like vision will arise either in Israel or in Palestine. This is our only hope.
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