Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tzipi Livni: The Latest Great Western Hope

Tzipi Livni was best friends forever with Secretary of State Condi Rice during the second Bush term and appeared on many lists of influential women. Tzipi Livni, the former leader of Kadima, was the latest but not the last of a string of Great Western Hopes in Israel who are more loved in America and Europe than in their own country. They are polyglot and erudite men and woman known for their reasonableness and learning. They explain Israel to the world and attempt to explain the world to Israel. All have been foreign ministers at one time or another and two have been prime ministers and a third--Livni--nearly became prime minister.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shaul Mofaz decisively beats Tzipi Livni in Kadima Primary

At about midnight Israel time this morning with about 90 percent of the vote returned, challenger Shaul Mofaz had beaten incumbent leader Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party in Israel by a margin of 62 to 38 percent--the same margin by which Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern in 1972. There was a turnout of about 45 percent for the internal election indicating that many who had voted for the party in 2009 had abandoned it. Mofaz, who emigrated from Iran as a boy in the 1950s served as chief of staff of the IDF and then as Likud defense minister under Ariel Sharon. Initially when Sharon bolted the Likud to form Kadima, Mofaz remained behind in the Likud but then was persuaded by Sharon to follow. Tzipi Livni, who served as Kadima foreign minister under Ehud Olmert from 2006 to 2008 before becoming party leader, has not indicated what she will do now. Mofaz called on her to remain in the party. But many have speculated that she will either withdraw from politics entirely or form a new party with Ehud Barak's Atzmaut (Independence) faction.  This is because both Kadima and Atzmaut are parties without developed ideologies. Both Mofaz and the media were very hard on Livni for failing to form a governing coalition in late 2008, which forced elections, and then for refusing to join Netanyahu's ruling coalition. There was also speculation that Mofaz might return to the Likud if he lost his second bid for the party leadership.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

J Street, Post-Zionism and the Two-State Solution

This weekend J Street, the liberal Zionist pro-peace lobby, will be holding its third conference since its founding in 2008. In 2009 it attracted 1500 people to its first conference, this expanded to over 2,000 at its second conference last year, and it is expected to have over 2500 attendees for its third conference. This has worried the Zionist Right in America, aligned behind the dominant Likud Party and the other parties of the ruling coalition. They have been very inventive in the ways they attack it, which mainly amounts to guilt by association and obfuscation.  But J Street may not be much of a threat to their Greater Israel project.

Bertie Ahern to be expelled from Fianna Fail?

There were two stories of interest today in Irish Central's Newshound site dedicated to Northern Ireland politics. One is that an official Irish commission, the Mahon Commission, has found that former Taoiseach (Prime Minister pronounced teeshuck) Bertie Ahern, was less than honest about the source of his wealth. The other is that his party that he led to victory three times (1997, 2002, 2007) as the most successful party leader since Eamon de Valera, the party's founder, is seeking to expel him for corruption. Ahern collaborated with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in bringing peace to Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2007. Stephen Collins, the Irish Times political reporter and the author of a very good book on Fianna Fail from the 1970s to 2000 as well as a biography of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, writes that expelling Ahern will be the easy part for the party. It will be much harder for the party to recover its reputation that it lost as a result of the economic collapse in 2010. A disclosure, two years ago I was researching Fianna Fail for a project to compare it with Israel's Likud Party. I turned to Collins to advise me on bibliography.

For observers of Irish politics what happens to Fianna Fail is of great interest. It should, however, also be of interest to those interested in the future of the Middle East peace process. Here is why.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ulster Unionist Race is a Two-Man Contest

I was wrong--or at least premature--when I said in my last post that the Ulster Unionist Party leadership contest would be a three-man race involving Danny Kennedy, Mike Nesbitt, and John McCallister. Kennedy announced on Friday that he would not be filing nomination papers for the position and would instead be backing Mike Nesbitt. Nominations for the race closed yesterday with only McCallister and Nesbitt having filed. The former UTV anchor/presenter has emerged as the establishment choice for the leadership with backing by three out of four UUP lairds (UUP members elevated to the House of Lords) including former liberal faction leader Ken Maginnis, now Lord Maginnis, and former Good Friday Agreement skeptic John Taylor, now Lord Kilclooney. Because former party leader David Trimble is now a Conservative peer, he is not among the four lairds. Nesbitt has also been endorsed by the Belfast Telegraph, the paper of the unionist establishment. 

Kennedy's main aim was to protect his ministerial position in the Executive, which was threatened by McCallister's call for the UUP to form the opposition. Kennedy is not a personality who relishes confrontation and so was happy to make an implicit deal with Nesbitt, after having been approached by a number of party figures, under which he will keep his ministry and Nesbitt will get the leadership. Had Kennedy remained in the race he would have risked splitting the non-liberal vote within the party and throwing the election to McCallister and thereby losing his ministerial position in the long run.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The UUP Leadership Contest

It is official--there are three candidates to fill Tom Elliott's shoes as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in Northern Ireland. They are: Deputy Party Leader John McCallister; Rural Development Minister and MLA David Kennedy; and MLA Mike Nesbitt, a former UTV anchor/presenter.  McCallister leads the liberal wing of the party and is being supported by his friend Basil McCrea who lost to Elliott in the previous leadership election in September 2010. The election will be at the end of the month.

Traditionally liberal candidates have not done well in UUP leadership elections. The last closest thing to a liberal was Terence O'Neill who resigned as prime minister in April 1969 at the start of The Troubles. Typically the right wing reactionaries also do not prevail in the UUP, although Lord Brookeborough who was prime minister for twenty years from 1943 to 1963 would fit that category. Bill Craig, the leader of the Vanguard paramilitary movement and faction within the UUP failed to win the election to succeed O'Neill in 1969 and the election to succeed the successor, Robin Chichester--O'Neill's cousin, in 1971.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Ulster Unionist Party's Leadership Problems

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Tom Elliott announced Thursday evening that he would be stepping down at the end of the month as party leader. Elliott was elected after the general election in mid-2010 after the resignation of former leader Reg Empey, who had been leader for five years. Empey resigned because the merger with the mainland Conservative Party under the label of Ulster Conservatives and Unionists--New Force  cost the UUP its only remaining MP, Sylvia Hermon, who identified more with the British Labour Party than with the Tories. The party lost a number of its voters either because they didn't like the Tories, or because faced with a new party name they opted for the more familiar label of the rival Democratic Unionists (DUP).  The same thing had occurred in South Africa in the mid-1970s when the venerable United Party gave up its familiar name after merging with a paper party. Many voters in Natal, its heartland, defected to the rival ruling National Party. The New Republic Party lasted for less than eleven years before it went out of business.