Israel's Rightward Shift

21 Feb 2009

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Soon after Israel's war on Gaza ended. Israeli's went to the polls to vote for a new government. During the war on Gaza, many commentators argued that the so-called centrist Kadima government launched the offensive to win Israel's right wing vote in the upcoming elections.

It seems that the suffering of the Gazan's may have been in vain. Despite the fact that Kadmia, led by Tzipi Livni won the Israeli election, her party is currently the largest party in the Israeli parliament, but joins 12 other parties in it and holds less than a quarter (30) of the 120 seats.

In the clip above, Part One of an interview on the post-election political maneuvering in Israel, Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation slices and dices the options for a coalition government in Israel and its implications for the Palestinians and the occupied territories.

Israel's right wing Likud party has 29 seats, just one less than Kadima. However, the total number of seats in parliament that belong to the right wing bloc, which includes the ultra right and religious right, is 65.

On paper, Netanyahu has a government, Livni does not. She can't form a majority of 61 seats without establishing some bizarre alliances. This is unlikely to come about.

The problem for Netanyahu is that there is a fight within the right wing bloc between the religious and the secular right.

So what are the options on the table?

- A narrow right wing government under Netanyahu is still possible.

- A broader coalition with Kadima and Likud, including other religious and secular right wing parties with Netanyahu leading, is also possible.

- Another option is a rotation. Netanyahu serves for some of the time and Livni serves for some of the time, perhaps two years each.

- The outside option is that somehow Livni manages to cobble together a coalition.

How much difference is there between the right and the centrists on the issue of how to deal with the Palestinians and the occupation?

On the surface of it, it would appear that there is a great deal of differences on how to deal with the Palestinian issue. In practice, you don't see it on the ground.

Netanyahu's Likud has run on a platform, which does not endorse Palestinian statehood. It talks about maintaining the Israeli presence in the West Bank, not withdrawing from the Golan Heights, never dividing Jerusalem and holding on to large parts of the territories. It has this notion that the Palestinian population will be happy living under occupation with better economic conditions.

The Kadima position is supportive of negotiations with Syria. Livni hints at what this may mean without explicitly talking about leaving the Golan Heights. She has said that Jerusalem will be negotiated. She is a strong advocate of the two state solution and of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

On paper there are significant differences, but in practice, the government that Livni served in expanded settlements, did nothing tangible to withdraw from the occupation or ameliorate the occupation and launched a war against Hamas led Gaza.

So a serious question hangs over the peace process' ability to deliver anything at all, in the current way that it is configured.

There may be a moment of clarity if you have the right wing in charge where they would have to make choices, rather than maintaining a process of talks with the Palestinians, which many people argue is simply going through the motions anyway.

Echoing similar sentiments, Haaretz journalist, Gideon Levy argues that a right wing government may force issues to the fore. In his article, Let Netanyahu Win, he says:

"Benjamin Netanyahu will apparently be Israel's next prime minister. There is, however, something encouraging about that fact. Netanyahu's election will free Israel from the burden of deception: If he can establish a right-wing government, the veil will be lifted and the nation's true face revealed to its citizens and the rest of the world, including Arab countries. Together with the world, we will see which direction we are facing and who we really are. The masquerade that has gone on for several years will finally come to an end.

Netanyahu's election is likely to bring the curtain down on the great fraud - the best show in town - the lie of "negotiations" and the injustice of the "peace process." Israel consistently claimed these acts proved the nation was focused on peace and the end of the occupation. All the while, it did everything it could to further entrench the occupation and distance any chance of a potential agreement.

The UK's Guardian newspaper reports that Israel's president Shimon Peres has chosen Netanyahu to create the unity government. Early reports indicate that Livni's Kadima party will not join the coalition government, choosing instead to stay in opposition.

Watch Part Two of this Interview here, where the discussion moves to the role of the Obama administration in resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This Haaretz report indicates that the Obama administration would prefer a Likud-Kadima unity government.

Watch Part Three of the interview here to learn more about the mood inside Israel today, including the trend towards ethnic purity.

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