Israeli TV news reported tonight that Bibi Netanyahu, who is negotiating to form a new government, held a secret meeting with Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union. I’d hoped something like this wouldn’t happen. I’d hoped that Labor, despite the hard times on which it’d fallen, would retain some sense of honor, dignity and principle and reject such a prospect. Though I knew in my heart that all the major parties are far more interested in survival and retaining their grip on power and perks, than they are in political principle.
It would make far more sense for Netanyahu to pursue a hard-right government, as there are more than enough seats in such a coalition (if he also includes one or more of the Orthodox parties) to form a majority. But apparently, either the rightist parties are driving a hard bargain in terms of the ministerial portfolios they’re demanding; or else Bibi needs leverage to fight back against such demands in the negotiation phase by reminding them that he has ‘other options.’ But this prospect is the most disturbing: that both Bibi and Bougie believe they have enough in common to form a unity government.
Remember, this is the same Likud whose campaign slogan was “it’s them or us.” The same Bibi who railed against “leftists and Arabs” handing over the country to ISIS or some such nonsense. This is the party with whom Labor now proposes to make common cause!
Presumably, Bibi would hand the second most valuable portfolio, foreign minister, to Bougie in return for the fig leaf it would offer the new government. Imagine how difficult it would be for the U.S. and Europe to expand their offensive against the racist Likud with Labor solidly within the fold.
But Herzog should examine the role played by previous second-fiddles in Netanyahu governments: Ehud Barak served as a more competent defense minister, but later he too faded into political oblivion; Avigdor Lieberman merged his Party with Likud, and for his troubles was tried on corruption charges and then saw his party representation halved in Knesset in the past election. He’ll be lucky to get the animal control portfolio in the next government. Amir Peretz formed a unity government with Bibi’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, and ended his term in ridicule as defense minister.
When in office, none was offered real power by Netanyahu, a true megalomaniac who cannot trust or delegate responsibilities to anyone, even his own allies. Tzipi Livni, Herzog’s new “bride,” was co-opted into the last government. Though she ostensibly had the peace negotiation portfolio, she essentially had nothing to do. Bibi called all the shots and when he grew tired of Lapid and Livni sniping at him from his left, he summarily fired them. Making your bed with Bibi is a recipe for political irrelevance.
Another disturbing development, was the announcement yesterday that the Zionist Union released a position paper on the Iran nuclear deal. If the Party wished to truly serve the role of Opposition in Knesset, you might’ve expected a document that took a skeptical or at least nuanced view compared to those of Netanyahu. Instead, the paper, largely authored by former IDF military chief, Amos Yadlin (hoping to be defense minister in a unity government), consisted of a lot of drivel and nonsense. It essentially repeated Likud demands for “improving” the deal by adding non-starter demands of the Iranians. But the demand that stood out from all the rest for its sheer chutzpah was that Israel should demand from the U.S. pre-approval for any Israeli attack on Iran should it “go nuclear:”
The U.S. and Israel must reach understandings which match the changing security needs of Israel with the issuing of the agreement between the [P5] powers and Iran. These understandings must include strengthening the strike and defensive capabilities of the IDF. They must tighten the existing alliance and strategic coordination, so that it strengthens Israel’s deterrent capacity. It should also provide an American umbrella, and the ability to act without restraints against threats and violations–whether of the agreement or by those of our adversaries in the region supported by Iran. Specifically, there must be pre-approval [“legitimization”] for any act Israel may be forced to take in order to protect itself in any situation that arises.
Sure, it’s like a father handing the keys to his new convertible to his son, who’s already smashed up three earlier cars. There is about as much chance that Obama would entertain such a provision as the Temple High Priest is going to find a sacred red heifer in my backyard.
Finally, a “left-right” unity government would be a fraud. It would be a solely-owned subsidiary of the Likud. The “left” would exist solely to legitimize the worst offences of the rightist majority. It would hinder the world from holding Israel accountable for its worst excesses. It proves yet again that the Israeli “left” is not only not “left,” but not even “center.” Rather, it’s a cipher and would be much better off dying a decent death.