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

Monday, October 29, 2012

A return to 1965? Is this the year of the blocs in Israel?

It was announced this weekend that the two main parties of the Israeli Right, the Likud and Israel Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) have formed a joint list to run in the Israeli election on January 22, 2013. The new list is named Likud Beitenu (Likud is Our Home). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will head the list and Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman will be the number two man on the list and will have his pick of ministries after the coalition is formed: foreign minister, defense minister, or finance minister. Last night the Likud by a large majority approved the merger, without Netanyahu having revealed the number of seats that each party would receive on the joint list. To see Netanyahu's acceptance speech (in Hebrew) go here.

The immediate reaction on the Center-Left was one of shock. Everyone in Israel was pretty much resigned to Netanyahu continuing as prime minister after the election, but the thought that the merger might become permanent and leave Lieberman as Netanyahu's successor as the new party leader has people in shock. Many in Israel claim that Lieberman's role model is not any of the figures on the secular Right such as Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Menahem Begin, or Yitzhak Shamir but rather Vladimir Putin, the semi-democratic and semi-authoritarian leader of Russia. Leiberman immigrated to Israel from Moldova--Soviet Romania--in 1978 at age 20. After serving in the army, he worked as a bouncer and entered politics as an aide to Netanyahu during the latter's first term as prime minister. He then left the Likud to found his own party of Russian immigrants to compete with Natan Sharansky's Israel B'Aliya (Israel on the Rise/Israel in Immigration) party. Lieberman has taken his party through a series of mergers and splits on the Right as he searched for a winning formula. This formula was eventually to attack Israel's Arab minority as disloyal and demand a loyalty oath.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Desperation of the Israeli Center-Left

It is with some surprise that it was announced recently that Shaul Mofaz, leader of the Kadima Party, has agreed to step down in favor of former party leader Ehud Olmert. Ehud Olmert, a veteran of the Free Center Party and the Likud on the Israeli Right, followed Sharon into Kadima as his deputy in November 2005. Two months later he took over as party leader when Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke that has left him in a coma since. In the summer of 2006 he led Israel into the Second Lebanon War this time against Hezbollah and the civilian population of southern Lebanon. Following Israel's poor performance in that war he emerged as a virtual lame duck prime minister with an approval rating of only three percent. In late 2008 he was forced to resign because of corruption allegations against him from his time as mayor of Jerusalem in the 1990s. Some of the charges proved to be politically motivated and he was acquitted of the worst allegations. But he did not emerge from the trial with his reputation intact, as this op-ed piece in the free newspaper Israel Hayom indicates.  This is the man that the Kadima Party is now pinning its hopes upon? 

After the collapse of Labor starting in late 2000, following the outbreak of the Al-Aksa Intifada in October, Kadima became the new hope of the Israeli Center-Left. The new hope of all those who supported a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Now it looks to receive less than 10 seats in the next Knesset. The Israeli Left should pin its hopes on the Labor Party and the strategy of its leader, Shelli Yachimovich. The Middle East is not yet ripe for peace. Labor should pin its future on other issues so that when the Middle East is ready, Labor and Israel will be ready as well.

Update: Chemi Shalev, the U.S. correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz, has reported in a briefing call with Americans for Peace Now that there is talk of Olmert heading up a Center-Left bloc consisting of Yair Lapid's new Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, Kadima, and the Israeli Labor Party. Shalev said that nearly all Israeli journalists and political analysts are convinced that no one can stop Netanyahu from forming the next coalition government in January. Here is APN's analyst Yossi Alpher's take on the elections in his usual Q & A column for APN.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Nobel Peace Prize: What Does it say?

Many commentators, especially Europeans, have commented upon the award of the 2012 peace prize by the Nobel Committee in Oslo to the European Union. Here is one by former war correspondent, military historian, and defense expert Max Hastings.  I don't agree with many of the things that Max Hastings wrote about previous winners. Here is an op-ed piece in the Ottowa Citizen that is more in line with my thinking. The Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel who donated part of his fortune to fund the Nobel Prizes left only one criterion for awarding the price--that it should go to whomever did the most to create peace during that year. To my mind there are two categories of recipients who should have first call on peace prizes: those national leaders who make compromises in order for peace to be achieved and mediators who facilitate peace agreements.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No peace for Syria; no peace process for Obama

This article by Tony Karon indicates that the war in Syria is at a stalemate, with the Sunni rebels lacking the heavy weapons to contest the planes and tanks of the regime in the cities. Those who can remember the civil war in Libya will remember the important role played by NATO air forces. NATO has no plans to get involved in Syria, which has a serious air defense system. Bashar al-Assad also did not support terrorism in Europe the way Muammar Kaddafi did. For Britain, France, and the U.S. intervention was a means of settling scores with an old foe and possibly deterring future terrorism by demonstrating that Western democracies have long memories. The only outside country showing any interest in getting involved militarily in Syria is Turkey, but the Turkish population is not up for the cost of a major war. Thus, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have to limit himself to running refugee camps for Syrian refugees and supplying a few small arms and other aid. If he did intervene it would enhance the political role of the Turkish military, Erdogan's main domestic political foe. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

David McNarry's Exodus

Former Ulster Unionist MLA for Strongford David McNarry announced yesterday that he was "bringing national politics to Northern Ireland" by joining the fringe United Kingdom Independence Party. The UKIP is known for opposition to Britain's membership in the European Union and is opposed to Britain's open immigration policy. It has seats mostly at the local council level on the British mainland. UKIP claims to be the only British party to openly contest seats in Northern Ireland. Most parties in Northern Ireland are unique to that province and are not organized in either Britain or the Republic of Ireland, the notable exception being Sinn Fein. Although many have links to British parties and attend their party conferences and vise versa. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is Mike Nesbitt ready for a Mid-Ulster By-Election?

Two days ago Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt announced that he was thinking about scrapping the position of deputy leader in the party. This was after he fired Deputy Leader John McCallister after McCallister publicly disagreed with the goal of unionist unity.  This follows the resignation of MLA and party veteran Ken Maginnis from the party after a public disagreement with Nesbitt over party policy towards homosexuals. And that followed upon earlier resignations. A refugee from one of those, David McNarry, has just announced that he is joining the UK Independence Party. Here a BBC story looks at the McCallister sacking and recent party controversies. The UUP is beginning to become a fair imitation of the party who couldn't shoot straight to paraphrase the name of an old Hollywood movie. Here Newsletter columnist Nick Garbutt defends John McCallister.