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Israel careens to the right: Government of national disunity

10/24/2006

The looming addition of Avigdor Lieberman and his rightist Yisrael Beitenu party to the Israeli government has caused consternation among many.

Continuing with the new style of political appointments that have no relation to qualifications, Lieberman is to be Minister of Strategic Threats. He is a perfect fit for this job, since he has no military or geopolitical credentials, just as Amir Peretz, Minister of Defense, has no military credentials. It appears that Lieberman's function may be issue to strategic threats. Ha'eretz commented that Lieberman, who wanted to bomb the Aswan High Dam not long ago, is a strategic threat. He is sure to generate interesting and alarming newspaper copy.

The appointment was dictated by the logic of coalition politics. Olmert's more or less ad hoc Kadima party was elected based on the prestige of Ariel Sharon and the promise of disengagement as a means of ending the nightmare Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. Then the Hamas swept the Palestinian elections. Then the Hamas began pouring rockets into southern Israel and all the supposed international guarantees failed. Then the Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit. Then the Hezbollah kidnapped three more soldiers, precipitating the unglorious Lebanon war. Then Olmert's government refused to allow a full scale investigation of the war. Then Olmert was faced with several accusations of personal corruption, including irregularities in the sale of his apartment and irregularities in the Bank Leumi transaction. If it wasn't one thing, it was another. As Olmert's stock goes down, Lieberman's leverage goes up.

Meanwhile, polls were showing an increasing slide to the right in Israel. Just as Palestinians, despairing of the moribund peace process and the corruption of the Fateh, voted in the Hamas, so Israelis are turning to extremism for exactly the same reason. Polls showed that if elections were held today, the Kadima party would get 15 seats in the Knesset, about half its current representation. Labor would get 15 seats as well, down from 19. The Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, would get 22-24 seats, while Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu/Ihud party would get as many as 20 seats.

The coalition, like the appointment of Lieberman as Minister of Strategic Threats, is based on purely political motives, devoid of any hint of ideology or integrity. The proposed government would combine the left of center Labor party with the extreme right Yisrael Beitenu, bypassing the Likud, which probably in reality the largest party, and ignoring the possibility raised by Amir Peretz of including Meretz and United Torah Judaism instead of Yisrael Beitenu. It is a government of national disunity.

One hardly knows whether to say that the Labor party should leave this government on principle, or stay in it to provide an element of sanity and social conscience. One advantage to the departure of Labor, now being debated, is that Amir Peretz would no longer be Minister of Defense. But supposing that Lieberman replaces him?

Ironically, for many years, Uri Avnery and others complained that the Israeli government is too chock full of generals and that there is no civilian control over military functions. Nobody can say that there are too many generals in Olmert's government or that Peretz and Lieberman have too much military experience. The gods grant the wishes of those whom they wish to destroy.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000527.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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