Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Game Of Chicken:The Winner Is...

...Ehud Barak.

Prime Minister Olmert has decided not to simply resign, but to face a party primary by September 25; this vote, he knows, will almost certainly force him to step aside without scuttling the current coalition.

Barak has proven that he is prepared to stand on a matter of principle, and even face the voters if necessary—in short, that he has the guts to lead, which is the last thing you’d expect Israel’s most decorated officer to have to prove.

But there are other winners. Olmert has won back a measure of his dignity. His many friends should be happy for him. He has even valorized an important judicial principle—academic, perhaps, when applied to sitting prime ministers who admit to taking bags of greenbacks to run a campaign—that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.

The real winner is what’s left of the peace process. All the talk about Israeli plans to attack Gaza, or bomb Iran, should not distract us. Leaked descriptions of IDF planning are as consistent with the idea that Barak is trying to create leverage for serious, three-front negotiations as the idea that he seeks military solutions. Barak knows the limits of military power; he is the one who pulled the IDF out of Lebanon, after all.

Anyway, to have negotiations of any kind, you have to avoid elections just now. With Olmert’s announcement, the current, centrist coalition has a realistic chance of surviving for another two years, which means Netanyahu has, for the moment, been blocked. True, if Shaul Mofaz loses the Kadima primary, and leads Shas and Kadima rightists out of the coalition, we might get an election anyway. But the optimism of the will savors one victory at a time.

Netanyahu has responded that Barak has “spit in the face of the Israeli public,” though polls continue to show the public both supports the government’s diplomatic surge and doubts that anything will come of it. Clearly, the government needs new leadership and more time: to work with the new American administration, to preside over a period of calm.

But one can see why Netanyahu is upset. Perhaps Sheldon Adelson will soothe him with more containers full of greenbacks from Macau, now that Maariv seems to be for sale again.


Shoded Yam said...

Of course Shelly is throwing a temper tantrum. This is a catastrophe. In many Israeli circles it has been common wisdom for some time that the American Jewish propaganda machine is hell bent on depicting the State of Israel as one settler-loving, palestinian hating, monolith. Considering whats at stake, this is understandable. A peaceful Israel, an Israel that is at peace with its neighbors, an Israel that has reconciled itself to the reality of a two-state solution, an Israel that is committed to social justice for all of its citizens, an Israel not ripped apart by social disorder is simply not in the interests of American Jews, either on the right or the left. Without an Israel on a perpetual war-footing, without an Israel being a supplicant client state, without an Israel who’s interests are subordinated to those of the United States, without the perception that it is necessary for American Jews to intercede with the American gov’t on Israels behalf, American Jews become a political non-entity(much as they were prior to 67’)with the all the attendant loss of power and influence that would entail.

Y. Ben-David said...

I think Dr Avishai is relying on obsolete thinking in his fear of Netanyahu and the Likud returning to power. The Likud is a "right-wing, nationalist" party the same way that the Labor Party and MERETZ are parties representing "the working class". All these things may have been true decades ago, but today Labor and MERETZ represent well-to-do functionaries and prosperous kibbutzim. Real working-class voters abandoned them long ago. Same with the Likud. As Dr Avishai repeatedly points out, government policy in Israel is determined by an "elite" of political and military bureaucrats along with the financial barons who control the Israeli economy. Today, the political parties and the government exist to carry out the policies that they determine. The Knesset has become a rubber stamp. The Knesset members are beholden to this "elite", not their voters. This is how the supposedly "right-wing" Likud was the one, NOT THE LEFT, that destroyed Gush Katif, in direct defiance of their own repeated promises to their voters. The majority of "right-wing" Likud Knesset members ended up supporting the policies of the Left (the same way that Labor is always promising a "social" agenda to "help the poor" but when they get into power, they continue to support the policies of the financial barons and support cuts in gov't benefits). Don't forget that many of the Kadima MK"s who now support dividing Jerusalem, giving up the Golan, etc, came from the "right-wing" Likud, so you see that it was quite easy for them to change their policies when it was shown to be in their personal interest to do so.
In any event, the current leadership of the Likud that Dr Avishai seems to fear, i.e. Netanyahu, Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat and others all supported Sharon's destruction of Gush Katif. They are all very secular, their values and social circle are the same as the Elite that Labor, MERETZ and Kadima people hang out in. There is only one policy that the Likud can carry out that the Left finds basically impossible to do and that is to destroy Jewish settlements and expel their residents. NO GOVERNMENT EVER LED BY THE LEFT EVER KNOCKED DOWN A SINGLE JEWISH SETTLEMENT. Only Likud governments have done that. In any event, Netanyahu has promised to form a coalition with the Left if he wins the next election, so the policies will still be determined by the "Elite" and yet there is a Prime Minister who the "right" will say is one of theirs and so he can push them to accept destroying more settlements by using the old, tried and true "you have to go along with me, you don't want the LEFT in power do you?". This is how Sharon got the Right to passivly accept his destruction of Gush Katif and why there was no real opposition to it on the ground.

Dr Avishai's fear of the supposedly growing power of the religious elements in Israel is also misplaced. The religious population has LESS political power today than ever before. Today there will be a homosexual rights parade in Jerusalem. This is offensive to the religious population of the city which is around half the population, but it has been made clear to them by the "Elite" that the public space in Israel belongs to the secular and the religious have no say in it, and the religious accept it. The two Haredi parties, SHAS and United Torah Judaism are sectoral parties that have no interest in running the state, as long as the limited interests of their constituents are taken care of. The National Union/National Religious Party which represents the Religious Zionist camp and the Judea/Samaria settlers is riven by internal divisions and is basically ineffectual, and I believe would be left out of any coalition the Likud would form since the Labor Party would veto including them in the government (Netanyahu would not be able to form a "Right-wing" gov't even if he wanted to because today there is an unwritten alliance between the Haredim parties and the Left since the Left can give them more than the Right.
Also, if Netanyahu were PM, he couldn't attack Iran because the IDF High Command are also chosen by the "Elite" and are vetted for political reliability so if Netanyahu really wanted to embark on some military adventure, they would block it.

The bottom line is, no matter how future elections may turn out, the political structure of Israel is firmly in the hands of the "Elite" and there is no danger of anyone else getting their hands on it. This is not to say that the public at large likes this situation...they do not share the values of this Elite, but everyone has learned that it doesn't matter who you vote for, the same policies will be carried out. This is the reason for great cynicism of the public, the continually decreasing voter turn out and the fact that almost all the institutions of the state (which are are controlled by the "Elite" including the Media) have lost the confidence of the public as recent polls have shown.

The crunch will come if there is a big crisis. If the public is called on to make sacrifices or support a controversial policy such as dividing Jerusalem, giving up the Golan or expelling 100,000 Jews from Judea/Samaria, yet the public despises its leaders, as is the case today, this is a dangerous siuation.

Shoded Yam said...

Mr. Ben-David,

Excellent Post. I've heard similar things from my Father-in-Law in Tel-Aviv(a former agriculural economist with Mekorot). He has made dark allusions to; "10 or so very wealthy families(The Wertheimers, et al.)that control the economy of the State of Israel

I think that the big crisis is unavoidable. If I have to guess it will manifest itself when the State is forced by a tough-love American administration to amend its policies re. the settlements. This will bring about the much feared confrontation with the extreme right wing settlers. Let it come. Evacuation is a forgone conclusion. As I see it, we have 3 choices. We can stay and deny international legitamacy to the state and insure that there will be a persistent state of war adinfinitum. Or perhaps option #2; we stay and commit genocide upon the cousins, thereby rendering the first option moot, or we can choose option 3. Evacuate and relocate those settlers who are willing to go peacably and voluntarily. Forcibly remove those who will not. For those who would attempt to pit themselves against the power of the state, in many cases deportation back to your country of origin(as might be the case with many of the American Jewish settlers such as Baruch Marzel and the like),imprisonment, and if neccesary, shot.

If the "Elite" truly exist, I find it difficult to believe that they would allow the interests of a bunch violent American Jewish Kahanist half-wits and malcontents to threaten the physical and economic security of the state. Its possible that up till now, the powers that be have looked at support for the settler movement as being a good investment insofar as American Jewish political and financial largesse is concerned. But as the situation progressively has become more unstable, that investment has begun to deliver ever dimishing returns.

Y. Ben-David said...

Mr "Pirate"-Shoded Yam:
I always find it interesting to see how Jews who come from America are somehow not viewed as "legitimate" Israelis, as in your comment. Shimon Peres was born in Poland and Amir Peretz in Morocco, they don't have any more roots in the country than do the Americans you mentioned (Baruch Marzel, BTW is NOT American) yet no one questions their legitimacy as Israelis.
I think that maybe this is because many Israelis and other Jews actually view North America as the real "Altneuland" the Herzl dreamed of as a refuge for the Jewish people, so as these people see it, Eretz Israel ended up being a dumping ground for the Jewish refugees that the "Goldene Medina" would't take in. Thus, according to this view, any American Jew (like myself for instance) who VOLUNTARILY actually picks himself up and leaves the US for Israel has to be some sort of psychiatric case. Right?

Shoded Yam said...

"...Thus, according to this view, any American Jew (like myself for instance) who VOLUNTARILY actually picks himself up and leaves the US for Israel has to be some sort of psychiatric case. Right?"

Wrong. I too "picked myself up" from the U.S. and moved to Israel. Thats not the point. The point is, that there are certain olim(mainly from the U.S.)who do not support a concept of democracy that contradicts their halachic belief system, a concept of democarcy that might result in having to be evacuated from homes and neighborhoods built on internationally contested territory (largely subsidized by the Israeli taxpayer to the tune of 60% of their income) and are willing to flout the authority of the state, obstruct the will of the majority, and indeed, engage in sedition and mayhem against the state and its citizenry in order to achieve their ends. Sorry, but threatening insurrection against your adopted homeland in order to effect a change that serves your particular interests, does nothing to buttress claims of "legitimacy".

Re. Baruch Marzel;

"...Baruch Marzel (Hebrew: ברוך מרזל) is an AMERICAN-BORN Israeli , Orthodox Jew and radical right-wing politician.[1][2] He lives in the Jewish community of Hebron with his wife and nine children. He is the leader of the Religious Zionism-orientated Jewish National Front party. He claims he was the "right hand man" of Rabbi Meir Kahane, acting as spokesman for the American Rabbi's Kach organization for ten years[3] until it was outlawed in Israel and the US as a terrorist organization."

I'm sorry you feel this way. I still think your previous post was excellent and well thought out.

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