Thursday, February 12, 2009

Israel votes for security

Well despite Tzipi Livni’s claim of victory, it is unlikely she can form a coalition government, as without the Likud party she can’t get a majority together (assuming those parties more conservative than the Likud reject her). It is more likely that Binjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party will form a coalition with the conservative and religious parties. It is a damning indictment of the Labor Party to slip into fourth.

However, why did Israelis move to the right? Well it is about security. The rocket attacks from Gaza tired many, and they damned Labor for its incompetence, although Kadima got credit for confronting Hamas directly. There is also the Obama factor.

With Obama talking of change and talking to Iran (which has called for Israel’s destruction), Israelis fear insecurity and the US pushing for concessions to Israel’s enemies. So they vote for the parties most willing to take a hardline against the Palestinian political parties and Israel’s enemies.

Parties like Yisrael Beitenu, which calls for the boundaries of Israel to be redrawn to effectively evict most Israeli Arab citizens and include Jews in West Bank settlements. Shas wants Israel governed by Jewish religious law.

So the challenge for the Obama Administration is how to deal with Netanyahu, who has called for an “economic peace” before a political peace. In others words, encouraging Palestinian economic activity, trade and development, ahead of deciding the political status of the occupied territories. This was to give Palestinians a better life and a stake in peace, before negotiating peace. However, he also supports expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank – which is hardly going to engender support among Palestinians who see Netanyahu as a man who has in the past supported a Greater Israel, and opposition to any Palestinian state.

The sad tension of Israel is that it is a country based on ethnicity, targeted by religious fundamentalist Arabs, and needs security from them. Meanwhile its own religious fundamentalist Jews gleefully treat Palestinian and Israeli Arabs as second class citizens. The more secular Israel can be the better it will be for Israel and for the Palestinians.

However, one thing that Israel can claim, over its neighbours - even Iraq with its embryonic democracy - Israelis can choose their leaders, have a vigorous vibrant liberal democracy and they can criticise their leaders.

That is a freedom that should spread throughout the Middle East, and it is the honest beautiful truth about Israel that its leftwing worldwide opponents ignore - just as they ignore the dictatorships, absolute monarchies and tyrannies that exist in virtually all Arab states.

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