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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kadima: Last Hope for the Two-State Solution?

Kadima has announced that it will hold primary elections for leader on March 27--about eight weeks from now--in anticipation of an Israeli general election in late 2012 or early 2013. Kadima is the centrist party that supporters of the two-state solution have pinned their hopes on since it was founded in November 2005. Since the June 1992 election that brought Rabin to power, Labor and Meretz have both lost three-fourths of their Knesset representation. But the creation of Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset by one seat, leaves the hope that there is a party that can replace Labor and serve as an anchor for a center-left peace coalition as an alternative to the Right.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The DUP Moves to Consolidate

Two items of recent interest in Northern Ireland. First, the DUP and Sinn Fein got together and agreed to abolish the one department controlled by Alliance in the Executive, as of right. Presently Alliance controls two departments, Employment and Learning (DEL) and Justice, with the first being on the basis of the d'Hondt distribution and the second because when Justice was devolved to Northern Ireland the Big Two could only trust giving it to Alliance. Employment and Learning has been divided between two other departments (Education, probably Regional Development). Both the UUP and the SDLP only have a single ministry and they both have many more Assembly members (MLAs) and councillors than Alliance.

Now Justice Minister and Alliance leader David Ford is seeking a guarantee from the Big Two that his ministry will remain in Alliance hands for the remainder of this Assembly's life. This may seem like he is going a tad too far. But it should be remembered that the first time that Alliance was in a power-sharing government, back in 1974, the DUP and the Shinners--or rather the armed wing of the Republican Movement (as the Republicans refer to it or SF/IRA as the unionists refer to it)-- de facto colluded to bring down that government. The IRA went on a bombing offensive and the three main unionist parties cooperated with the Loyalist Association of Workers to bring down the government through a general strike. Former UUP leaderDavid Trimble and his former IRA advisor Sean O'Callaghan used to reminisce about how they both operated against the power-sharing government of 1974. So it may be natural on Ford's part to doubt the veracity and good intentions of the Big Two.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Predictions for the Middle East and Irish Politics

After years of amusing myself by watching the pundits having their ignorance played back to them on Nightline and in rival press columns, I am publicly putting my predictions forward. As my crystal ball has been in the shop for decades I claim no special insight into the future. My predictions are based only on the future being like the recent past and present.

One, Netanyahu will call elections this year and will emerge as prime minister again. Whether he calls them before attacking Iran in order to gain a popular mandate for such an action or after is anyone's guess. I'm guessing that being cautious he will be reelected then move to attack Iran.

Two, continued Islamist victories in Arab Spring elections in Egypt and elsewhere will make Israel more cautious than ever (except towards Iran) and make Hamas and Hezbollah provocative.

Three, Egypt will attempt to unilaterally alter the peace treaty with Israel by ending diplomatic relations.

Ranking Israel's Prime Ministers

As an American centrist who in Israel would be considered a leftist (which shows how far to the Right Israel's democracy is), I will now rank Israel's prime ministers. I rank them primarily on their contributions to Israeli security and to peace with Israel's neighbors, but also on their contributions to Israeli democracy. I will not rank those prime ministers whose term in office was less than two years, as less than half a term is too little to fairly judge a prime minister by.

First, David Ben-Gurion (1948-1954, 1955-63)  Ben-Gurion had the historic understanding of his environment, of what history demanded and of timing to build the framework for a state during the 1930s and 1940s as head of the Jewish Agency. He then managed to divorce the Jewish Yishuv from Britain in 1945, without provoking a fatal reaction. He conducted a victorious war strategy in 1948-49 after having wisely accepted the UN partition plan. Later he built an alliance with France to replace the British connection. I could write a column about all of his faults, but in the largest matters he was correct.