One moment Amir Peretz was negotiating with the Israeli rightist parties to form an odd left-right coalition in which he would be prime minister and the next he was shaking hands with Ehud Olmert, who called Labor his “senior partner” in the forthcoming Kadima-led coalition. One minute anonymous Kadima sources are whispering that Peretz is a light-weight not worthy of national leadership and the next they’re reportedly offering him the Defence portfolio. If your head’s spinning then welcome to the altered reality of Israeli politics where almost everything imaginable can happen and often does (and a few unimaginable things too).
Peretz reportedly really wanted the Finance portfolio to ensure he could execute his economic agenda guaranteeing an increased minimum wage and other policies to help those at or below the poverty line. But Kadima leaders are balking at entrusting the Israeli economy to a man with such “radical” views. I wonder why, though, they feel more comfortable offering him Defense. After all, his ideas about Israel’s military policy are probably no less unorthodox (at least compared to those of the political elite). Does Kadima expect that the sheer size and ocean liner inertia of the defense establishment will overmatch Peretz? If he is offered Defense and takes it, it will be interesting to see whether the military industrial complex bests him or the other way around. It’d be nice to think that Peretz may be able to put a lid on some of the worst excesses of the IDF and security services in their treatment of the Palestinians.
The other distressing factor in coalition negotiations is Olmert’s announcement during his joint press conference with Peretz that Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beitenu are to be partners in the coalition. Lieberman is the politician who hatched the harebrained scheme to transfer sovereignty over hundreds of thousands of Arab Israelis to the PA in order to ensure somehow the continued demographic preponderance of Jews in Israeli society. Menachem Klein has derided this “plan” as lunacy and a sham, saying that at most 200,000 Israeli Arabs might live close enough to the Green Line to be eligible for “transfer.” Klein notes that this is barely more than the 150,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians whose homes have been annexed by Israel, but who have not been given Israeli citizenship or the right to vote. Presumably, if Israel refuses to return this territory to the PA, then these Palestinians will have to be given some form of Israeli citizenship and voting rights.
If I recall correctly, Lieberman is one of the ministers from Sharon’s cabinet who resigned rather than support the Gaza withdrawal. One wonders how he will react to the far more substantial planned West Bank withdrawal. In fact, an unnamed Labor source predicts in Haaretz that Lieberman will resign as soon as the “convergence plan” is implemented dragging the religious parties in the coalition with him. Or perhaps Lieberman believes he can enter government and modify and stall withdrawal? That wouldn’t be promising for Olmert. Another matter which should be worrying for Peretz is that the latter’s dovish views of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict will be in direct conflict with Lieberman’s hard right views. How can the two co-exist in the same cabinet?? Indeed, perhaps Olmert has engineered this deliberately hoping to muzzle Peretz’s efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
I don’t see the Lieberman addition to the government as promising at all. It will just lead to more stasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front. We should expect no positive development in relations between the two peoples as long as Lieberman can put in his two cents at the highest political level. For the life of me I can’t understand why Olmert isn’t going for an alternative, and much more stable option: Kadima, Labor, Meretz, Pensioners and Shas for well over 70 seats. My guess is that Olmert worries that this coalition would be much more heavily weighted toward the left and he may not feel comfortable taking his government in this direction. After all, it would give Peretz much more room to lobby for strong action toward negotiations with the Palestinians. This must be something that Olmert is loathe to do. Hence the coalition he’s now proposing.
Dov C. says
all that you described is classic ISraeli politics. All I can say is that I am not suprised, twice.
1. that all this happened in the past week.
2. that someone who does not live in Israel doesn’t understand it. I have talked to a lot of Americans and they all have issues with the Israeli political Scene.
Richard Silverstein says
Dov C: I understand Israeli politics quite well. I just don’t like what happened or how it happened & my incredulous tone was meant as a satirical comment. Yes, I do have problems with the Israeli political apparatus and how it functions. Much of the time, I don’t think it serves Israeli society well.
Dov C. says
Well it seemed from the comments that you made that you don’t aprove of the idea of joining Liebeman in. I can understand that, since he comes off the wrong way by most of the foriegn press. In fact Lieberman wants to deal with the Internal Issues of the country IE the crime, that has been neglected because the Intifadah in the past 6 years.
Also, going in with Shas will not help olmert get his Plan going, and he knows it. the Truth is that unless he goes in with the arab Parties he does not have the 61 votes to get this plan passed. And he also does not want to seem part of the left (he is very right economecly), becuase in a few years from now he will have to go to re-elections, and if he is just another Leftist Party – well he will lose.
bottom line is there are a few years before we Start this Plan of his, and till then there are more important things to deal with. The palestinians will either have to wake up (soon) and relize that we are here to stay (in Israel) or they will find themselves in the worst sittuation thay can imagine – independance. Here in Israel in the mean time we will try to work on more important things and Lieberman can be a very valuble player in that Game.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t care what Lieberman says he’s going to do about crime (& it is a BIG problem in Israel), he’s unfit for leadership. He’s a ranting dictator whose views of Israeli Arabs remind me of Hitler’s views of Jews. The only difference being that Lieberman hasn’t advocated exterminating them (yet). And how do you expect him to fight crime when he has ethical “challenges” of his own?
Simply not true. If he gets Kadima/Labor/Pensioners/Meretz/Shas together he has 70 votes. That’s sounds like more than 61 to me.
The idea that anyone could believe Olmert would countenance being part of a “part of the left” is downright silly. It’d be like calling Sharon a peacenik. Simply not believable. Besides, it is up to the coalition leader to LEAD. If Olmert sets a path, his partners should follow. And they would as long as they believed in him & his leadership. I think the fact that Olmert is trying to go the cautious, conservative route by bringing in Lieberman indicates just how unsure he is of his own abilities to take control of the political situation.
Absolutely not so. If the Palestinians start intifada three (or is it four, I’ve lost count) and terror attacks resume w. a vengeance then you might reconsider this statement. Peace is paramount. Of course, the economy is important. But you can’t have a healthy economy is the long run if you don’t have peace.
I have trouble following that. How is independence the worst situation imaginable? BTW, the Palestinians realize Israel is here to stay by wide majorities in all opinion polls. I might add that Israelis will have to wake up and realize that the Palestinians are not only here to stay but they can make Israel’s life a sheer misery if they are ignored (as Olmert shows every inclination to do).
Dov C. says
As I wrote in my previous comment, Shas is not so sure to go in with Olmert plan. They have stated already that they will have to decide when the time comes. And considering that Shas gets votes from the Generally right side of the political Spectrum, They will find themselves in a pickle from the whole thing.
As for Lieberman, I will not ad any more, you proved my point so well about people not really knowing who he is, The whole “He reminds me of Hitler” is a little out of place, unless you know something I don’t.
I didn’t realize the 2nd Intifada had ever ended. are we back on the Road (map) to peace? are we talking to someone? are there no attacks on Israel anymore? The Palestinians have not stopped trying to kill Israelis, We still get over 50 attempts a day on average, of people trying to attack Israel, The fact that you don’t hear about it on the news has to do With Tzahal Constantly going after these people who are threatening Innocent Israeli lives, and may I ad doing a going job at it as well.
Don’t believe everything you read in opinion polls, They are the least reliable source of information out there (except strait out lies). But more to the point, The Palestinians have to still wake up and decide if they want to live here in Peace or not. Israel made that decision a long time ago. But after 6 years of non-stop fighting, it is hard to believe that anyone there (at least not those who make decisions) really want to have a long lasting peace with Israel, but rather see Israel disappear off the face of the earth (as their foreign minister stated the other day “I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it.” That sounds like someone who wants peace to me no??
Richard Silverstein says
I’m sorry to say that your comment reminds me to the lyrics of an old song by Paul Simon:
You seem to believe the most alarming things you hear about Hamas. But those things which are conciliatory you discount as lies or as not credible. I’m sorry but I don’t see much point in trying to point out the weaknesses or inaccuracies in yr argument because you’re not really open to seeing an alternative view of things.
Unlike you, I trust the opinion polls I read regarding Palestinian attitudes just as I trust polls of Israeli attitudes. The fact that you see them as little more than lies indicates you know very little about polling & even less about the Palestinians. It’s unfortunate that you’re so poorly informed about this subject.
Again, yr comment that Israel “long ago” made a decision to “live in peace” with the Palestinians is terribly naive, misguided & wrong. Israel has done next to nothing to bring peace w. the Palestinians. There are many things about which you can fault the Palestinians. But there are no less that you can fault the Israelis for too. The problem with your approach is that the Palestinians are always going to be the bad guys & Israelis always the good guys. That’s a woefully inadequate way to see Mideast reality.