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 24, 2012

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.

Fianna Fail was the dominant part in Irish politics during the post-partition period from its founding in 1926. It twice went sixteen years in office without interruption and when the opposition came to power, it was usually to give FF a break of only three or four years. This dominance was based upon three things: a flexible economic policy, a policy of posturing in foreign policy, and a reputation for piety. The party appealed to the rural peasantry and workers by its support for the Irish language, calls for a united Ireland and attacks on Britain, and its economic populism. Like many a post-colonial revolutionary regime in the Third World it also helped to keep its electorate poor through its autarkic economic policies. 

In a new constitution written by Taoiseach Eamon de Valera and adopted in 1937 Ireland establishes a constitutional claim to the territory of Northern Ireland. It only ended that claim by altering the two relevant articles, 2 and 3, in 1999 as part of the Northern Ireland peace process. So for 62 years Ireland had an official policy of irredentism or pining after lost territory. 

Fatah, the dominant party in Palestinian politics from its founding in 1958 until 2006, had a similar irredentist policy towards Israel until the 1990s and the Oslo process. Many of its officials still make irredentist statements. And Fatah has been infamous for its corruption in the Palestinian Authority from 1994 onwards. Thus the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s has lessons to teach us today about ending irredentism in Palestine.

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