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Posts Tagged ‘unity government’

White (House) Washing Hamas

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to clean up the mess he created at a closed-door meeting on Friday by claiming Israel had a future as an ‘apartheid state’ if it doesn’t make peace with the Palestinian Authority soon, the American Way, a White House adviser has just added more fuel to the fire.

Middle East adviser to the White House Philip Gordon told American Jewish leaders this week that the new Palestinian Authority unity government deal between the Fatah faction and Hamas terrorists “isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Gordon told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at a special briefing that the Palestinian Authority’s impending Hamas-Fatah unity government took the American mediators by surprise, i24News TV reported.

He added that Secretary Kerry warned PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that the timing of the unity deal was not good, and that the U.S. was not pleased by the news.

Nevertheless, the White House appears to have taken a “wait and see” attitude. Gordon commented during his briefing that in any case it would have been nearly impossible to reach a permanent peace with “half a Palestinian entity.”

The remark is a reference to the fact that the PA chairman and his Ramallah-based government only actually control certain areas in Judea and Samaria. Nearly one half of the PA – the entire region of Gaza, in fact – is under the iron fist of the Hamas terrorist organization. Even Abbas cannot enter Gaza without the permission of the Gaza leadership, for fear of assassination.

All of southern Israel and significant parts of central Israel have been vulnerable to rocket, mortar and missile attacks from Gaza for several years. More than 12,000 such attacks have been launched at Israel over the past decade.

At least two mini-wars have been fought against the region in order to silence the deadly rocket fire that periodically disrupts daily civilian life in southern Israel, and more than a thousand PA Arab terrorist prisoners were freed in a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas in order to rescue IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held hostage in Gaza for more than five years after being kidnapped by a group of Hamas-affiliated terrorists in June 2006.

Plots, Schemes And Coalitions

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Last month we saw something historic in Israeli politics – the largest unity government ever formed. Unlike most unity governments, this one was born neither from a sense of national emergency nor from an era of national euphoria, where political differences fade. Instead, this coalition was induced by the threat of the ballot box and is a result of Israeli politicians’ strategic dedication to either keeping their seats or scoring the slot above them in the next coalition jig.

For many observers, the “surprise” that greeted Israelis on May 8 was yet another political dance where the citizen stands on the sidelines, half-bewildered, half-relieved, but ultimately a spectator meant to watch, wonder, and wait for another year and half to be heard from again.

When it comes to Israel’s representative governance, is the tail wagging the dog? Put another way, is Israel’s citizenry merely an accessory to the political decision-making of the day?

There is no debating the many benefits that may derive from a unity government for Israel. With a nuclear Iran fast approaching, Syria imploding, Turkey menacing, and Hizbullah-Hamas gaining strength rapidly, stability is a good thing, which explains why most Israelis don’t want early elections. Indeed, there are other benefits that could derive from a Likud-Kadima union, such as the ability to fast-track emergency legislation like the Tal Law, budgetary issues, and critical electoral reforms. But as in all things, there is a subtext to this story that cannot be expediently swept under the rug. In this case, it has become clear that the unity government’s main ambition is consolidating its own power, as Israelis are once again forced to endure ad hoc-style governance in which day-to-day politicking is more about the maintenance of power then exercising it.

Sadly, the numerous scandals and convictions of former prime ministers, presidents and MKs are constant reminders of unscrupulous public servants blatantly neglecting their national duties. This is not to say there are not good, well-intentioned men and women in the Knesset who seek to improve the lives of Israelis. There are many. But the overall climate inside Israel’s governing class is one that applauds – even pursues – stability at the cost of clarity in policy.

Israelis are an audaciously capable people in times of crises. The concern is that political stability could lead to policy inertia, which leads to a fatal sense of apathy.

To most honest observers, the Netanyahu/Mofaz marriage is one of convenience, a mutual desire for power consolidation and political momentum. And how can we blame either of them for mimicking the political strategies of the day? Netanyahu has managed to successfully navigate – even dominate – a political system, while Mofaz – newly installed as Kadima’s head – effectively read the writing on the wall regarding Kadima’s chances in an early election. What is indisputable is the complete lack of effort by either leader to court the general public in the formation of this unprecedented coalition.

This disinterest in the grassroots constituency has become standard. Take, for example, the Netanyahu government’s response to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who took to the streets last summer to protest Israel’s centralization of wealth and power. The Israeli grassroots finally made their voice heard, but lacked the clarity of purpose and the sacred national symbols to unite and speak truth to power. We should have seen a more serious response than the appointment of the Trachtenberg commission.

Since then, Israelis citizen have been led – by delays and other obfuscations – back into the grip of societal apathy, where they congratulate the government for forming a coalition but fail to hold it accountable for demands which swept the nation less than 10 months ago. And so, demands from a broad consensus of Israel’s population have so far yielded only minor legislative changes and a unity government that can more easily diffuse accountability for inaction.

In looking at the current coalition, we must ask ourselves: Does Israel get the leaders it deserves? For an ancient people founded on the republican principles of individualism, community, and ethical responsibility, leadership from the Jewish perspective has always flowed upward, from the people. While the people are supposed to be the power behind the throne, Israel’s democracy has become filled with willing subjects. In the end, the blame lies with a public that has abdicated its duty – to be comprised of active citizens and advocates for a better nation that doggedly participate in their community and politic. Until such an innervated citizenry arises, Israel will continue to produce the leaders that reflect their own abdication and take advantage of the power vacuum, governing ad hoc on the basis of petty politics.

Plots, Schemes, and Coalitions

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Earlier this month we saw something historic in Israeli politics – the largest unity government ever formed. Unlike most unity governments, this one was born neither from a sense of national emergency nor from an era of national euphoria, where political differences fade. Instead, this coalition was induced by the threat of the ballot-box and is a result of Israeli politicians’ strategic dedication to either keeping their seats or scoring the slot above them in the next coalition jig. For many observers, the “surprise” which greeted Israelis on May 8th was yet another political dance where the citizen stands on the sidelines, half-bewildered, half-relieved, but ultimately a spectator meant to watch, wonder, and wait for another year and half to be heard from again. This scenario begs the question: when it comes to the state of Israel’s representative governance, is the tail wagging the dog? Put simply, is Israeli citizenry merely an accessory to the political decision-making of the day?

There is no debating the many benefits that may derive from a unity government for Israel today. With a nuclear Iran fast approaching, Syria imploding, Turkey menacing, and Hezbollah-Hamas gaining strength rapidly, stability is a good thing, which explains why most Israelis don’t want early elections. Indeed, there are other benefits that could derive from a Likud-Kadima union, such as the ability to fast-track emergency legislation like the Tal Law, budgetary issues, and critical electoral reforms.

There is no doubt that a stable unity government will contribute to Israel’s wellbeing. But as in all things, there is a subtext to this story that cannot be expediently swept under the rug. In this case, it has become clear that the unity government’s main ambition is consolidating its own power, as the Israeli citizen is once again forced to endure ad hoc styled governance in which day-to-day politicking is more about the maintenance of power then exercising it. Benjamin Disraeli, one of the greatest parliamentarians, once said, “Coalitions though successful have always found this, that their triumph has been brief.” Such has been the fortune of too many of Israel’s political coalitions, and the current one cannot argue for an exception.

This is not to say that there are not good, well-intentioned men and women in the Knesset that seek to improve the lives of Israelis and future of Israel. There are many. But the overall climate inside Israel’s governing class is one that applauds, even pursues, stability, at the cost of clarity in policy. In these environments, it becomes difficult for leaders to properly undertake their duties – and understand the nature of their duty – when grappling the ‘greasy pole’ of politics. Serving their real constituency – that is, the general public – instead of their power base is not a notion that illuminates the corridors of power inside Israel.  Sadly, the numerous scandals and convictions of former PMs, Presidents, and MKs are constant reminders of unscrupulous public servants blatantly neglecting their national duties. Israel cannot afford such willful ignorance, given the volatile regional realities and the critical domestic issues that crowd its agenda. Israelis are an audaciously capable people in times of crises. The concern is that political stability could lead to policy inertia, which leads to a fatal sense of apathy.

To most honest observers, Netanyahu and Mofaz’s marriage is one of convenience, a mutual desire for power consolidation and political momentum. And how can we blame either of them for mimicking the political strategies of the day? Netanyahu has managed to successfully navigate – even dominate – a political system, while Mofaz – newly installed as Kadima’s head – effectively read the writing on the wall regarding Kadima’s chances in an early election. What is indisputable is the complete lack of effort by either leader to court the general public in the formation of this unprecedented coalition.

This sort of disinterest in the grassroots constituency has become standard. Take, for example, the Netanyahu government’s response to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens that took to the streets last summer to protest Israel’s centralization of wealth and power. The Israeli grassroots finally made their voice heard, but lacked the clarity of purpose and the sacred national symbols to unite and speak truth to power. The proof of this, as they say, is in the pudding. We should have seen a more serious response than the appointment of the Trachtenberg commission. Since then, the Israeli citizen has been led – by delays and other obfuscations – back into the grip of societal apathy, where we congratulate the government for forming a coalition but fail to hold it accountable for demands which swept the nation less than 10 months ago. And so, demands from a broad consensus of Israel’s population have so far yielded only minor legislative changes and a unity government that can more easily diffuse accountability for inaction.

Jewish Press Radio: The Scoop on the New Government

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The Scoop on the New Government

A new unity government was formed in Israel during the last week and in order to properly discuss the ins and outs of the new government and its foundation, the Jewish Press’ Yishai Fleisher is joined by Jeremy Man Saltan, an insider on the Israeli Knesset and host of the definitive English-language Knesset blog. Together, they discuss the situation that created the new government including a wide-reaching agreement between Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and leader of Kadima Shaul Mofaz to create an overwhelming coalition government. Specifics about the new government are discussed along with thoughts on how long it could last.

Netanyahu Inaugurates Coalition with ‘Four Main Goals’

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Kadima into his Likud-led government at the first cabinet meeting since Kadima’s entry into the coalition.

“This is the first meeting of the broad unity government, and we have many challenges ahead of us. On behalf of all ministers, I welcome Shaul Mofaz as a government minister and welcome the Kadima MKs that have joined the coalition.” Mofaz was sworn in as deputy prime minister and minister-without-portfolio last week.

“In the talks between us, we set four main goals for the broad unity government,” he continued, “changing the Tal Law, changing the electoral system, passing the budget, and advancing the peace process.”

Netanyahu placed greatest priority on advancing a bill that will replace the expiring Tal Law, which permitted Haredi men to defer military service indefinitely. “This week, an inter-party team will be formed to present us with alternatives to the Tal Law. By the end of July, we will pass a law that will divide the burden on a more equal, more egalitarian and more just basis for all Israelis, Jewish and Arab alike, without setting public against public.”

Without going into specifics, Netanyahu also reiterated his and Mofaz’s call last week to reform the electoral system, saying that the government would “establish a team to lead the change in the electoral system.”

One topic that Netanyahu did not address in his statement but is certain to test the strength and durability of the new coalition is the Ulpana outpost crisis. In light of the High Court’s ruling last Monday that Ulpana must be evacuated and destroyed by July 1, there is talk that the government will propose a bill that would circumvent the High Court’s ruling by legalizing Ulpana.

Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau stated that proceeding with the scheduled evacuation and demolition would be “immoral, unjust and inhumane.”

Bibi’s Bombshell Proves He’s ‘Israel’s Number One Politician’

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bombshell announcement of a unity government agreement with new Kadima Party head Shaul Mofaz gives the Israeli leader an unshakeable government coalition for at least another year.

Netanyahu had announced at a Likud meeting on Monday evening that the time for new elections had come and urged his supporters to rally behind the party ahead of the September 4 election.

Israeli prime-time TV news programs had already stationed reporters inside the Knesset on Monday night, where a majority of Knesset members were preparing to dissolve the parliament in order to prepare for new elections.

All the while, however, Netanyahu and Mofaz were meeting behind closed doors to discuss the parameters of a unity government deal.

Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni had ignored repeated calls during the past three years from faction members – including Mofaz – to form a unity government with Netanyahu.

President Shimon Peres congratulated Netanyahu on the formation of the new coalition, saying that “a national unity government is good for the people of Israel…the good of the state in light of the crucial challenges facing it requires broad national unity.” Yair Lapid, the former TV broadcaster whose newly formed Future Party was rising in the polls, ripped the formation of the new government. “This ugly alliance will bury all those involved,” he said.

Yossi Verter, who covers politics for the left of center Haa’retz daily, wrote on Tuesday, “After getting over initial feelings of disgust and nausea, you have to admit that Netanyahu has once again taught us all a lesson. He’s Israel’s number one politician, no doubt, by a mile.”

Labor Party chief Shelly Yachimovich will now assume the role of opposition leader.

Israel’s Unity Government and Iran

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

In an overnight drama, the leaders of Likud and Kadima, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, concluded a deal to form a broad coalition government led by their two factions, and the cancellation of early elections called for by Netanyahu.

In the normal course of events elections would have been held in 2013. Netanyahu called for early elections to be held this September for multiple reasons. One of them may be that he didn’t want a repeat of the election of 1999, when he lost a close race for a second term to Labor’s Ehud Barak, who received overt and covert support from the Clinton Administration. By getting the elections out of the way while the Obama Administration would still be preoccupied with its own campaign, Netanyahu would have been in a stronger position to face a hostile second-term Obama, should he be reelected.

But both Netanyahu and Mofaz (whose Kadima party is polling very, very poorly) are beginning to worry about the rise of a “non-ideological” party led by Yair Lapid, a former TV news anchor. The present coalition is also struggling to find an acceptable solution to the issue of military service for Haredim (“ultra-Orthodox” Jews); the new coalition agreement stipulates that a bill on this subject will be presented shortly. There are also agreements on budgetary issues. Finally, I think Netanyahu would like to add Mofaz, with his considerable military expertise, to the Security Cabinet.

Shaul Mofaz, born in Tehran, came to Israel in 1957 and participated in all of Israel’s wars since 1967 (including the Entebbe raid). As chief of staff from 1998-2002 he was noted for the tough response to the Second Intifada, Operation Defensive Shield, in which Israel pacified Judea and Samaria. He recently defeated Tzipi Livni for the leadership of Kadima, the party which currently holds the largest number of seats in the Knesset (28), one more than Netanyahu’s Likud.

But is there a connection to a possible strike on Iran? It seems that if there is to be such a strike, it will be before the US elections, while Obama is constrained from acting strongly against Israel. A unity government, which would give Netanyahu a massive 96 Knesset seats out of 120, would certainly clear the decks for action. New elections in September, on the other hand, carry a burden of uncertainty, even though Netanyahu’s Likud party is leading by a large amount in the polls. In any event they would be disruptive.

Mofaz has made public statements that Israel should let the US take the lead in dealing with Iran. But he has not been as aggressive in his criticism of the PM and Defense Minister’s purported plans as, for example, former Mossad head Meir Dagan and former Shabak boss Yuval Diskin.

There is reason to be distrustful of international efforts led by the US to deal with the Iranian nuclear program. For example, Amos Yadlin and Yoel Guzansky write,

An additional round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran about the nuclear issue is due to take place in Baghdad in May. Despite a decade of unproductive dialogue, it is important to both sides that negotiations take place: Iran seeks to prevent even harsher sanctions, while President Obama wishes to postpone difficult decisions at least until after the presidential elections. Both parties want to prevent an Israeli strike

A bad deal, one that the Iranians are likely to offer and that the international community would be tempted to accept, would include explicit legitimacy for Iran enriching uranium on its soil up to the 5 percent level but would not include removal of most of the already-enriched uranium from within Iran’s borders. The bad deal also would include not limiting the number or type of centrifuges and enrichment sites. Iran then would be able to continue securing its sites in a way that would make damaging them much harder than it is at present. With such a deal, Iran would be able to improve its chances of breaking out toward nuclear weapons in a relatively short time after making the decision to do so…

Israel would find it hard to live with a situation in which Iran could at any moment decide to break out toward rapid nuclear-weapons manufacturing thanks to an extensive nuclear infrastructure and a significant amount of enriched uranium. However, international recognition of the legitimacy of Iran’s nuclear capabilities would place Israel in a strategic dilemma. It would be difficult for Israel to justify any offensive move against these capabilities without support from America or important elements of the international community. [my emphasis]

The problem for Israel, then, is not only — as Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned — that Iran might reach a “zone of [physical] immunity” in which its nuclear facilities are sufficiently hardened that an Israeli attack would not be effective. There is also a zone of political immunity which would be created by Yadlin and Guzansky’s “bad deal,” one which will remove support from Israel without ending the Iranian nuclear threat.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/israels-unity-government-and-iran/2012/05/08/

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