David joins Goliath? Israeli Labour Party set to join Likud-led Coalition March 25, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Politics, Israel, Palestine.
And with one bound!
Amazing stuff in Israel, the news that Labour is marching into coalition with Likud. With the present agreements between Likud and other parties that gives the right led coalition 66 seats.
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak initialled a pact today that would unite their Likud and Labour parties in Israel’s next government, a Labour official said.
And the purported agreement that the: “…Likud-led administration would respect all of Israel’s international agreements, an indirect reference to interim peace accords it has signed with the Palestinians.” Doesn’t give enormous comfort given that in negotiations with Kadima the sticking point was an inability by Netanyahu to state clearly that he supported a two-state solution.
It’s certainly a somewhat devious move by Labour given that they appeared to depart the field of battle in the wake of the recent elections and eschew coalition with Kadima.
And whether this is something entirely cooked up by Ehud Barak keen to hold onto his position as Defence Minister is an interesting question. Doesn’t seem like it is that alone, not if we are to judge from the following:
Although as many as seven of Labour’s 13 elected MPs opposed the move, the party’s 1,400-strong central committee nevertheless followed Barak’s lead and voted to join the government.
That’s some central committee…1,400…hmmm.
But overall it’s one of those happenings in politics (both there and elsewhere) which if judged by any other standard in life would appear near incomprehensible. After all, just how is potentially the most right-wing government in Israel in a decade, with an overtly problematic programme as regards Palestine and one which appears to set its face against international agreements (however weak and fragile) going to incorporate the much diminished Labour Party? How on earth does that work? And is it the fact of that diminished status of the LP which is behind this. That the natural party of government of Israel should be reduced to a mere 13 seats, leaving it now the fourth largest party behind both the centre and the far right must operate in curious ways. The urge to be relevant, to be a player, to – as the grim phrase has it – box above its weight must be all but irresistable. And allied to that the hope that something will turn up that will rework its fortunes, that by being involved it will be well positioned to do something. It’s easy to be critical of that stance, but albeit this is a particularly pointed case this goes to the heart of left projects in many many places and how they should respond and react.
And Labour is not unaware of the probability that they may well be the fig-leaf to cover a multitude…
For Netanyahu, bringing Labour on board gives his government a wider base and may provide some protection against international criticism over his proposed rightwing policies, particularly towards the Palestinians. Even though he came only second in last month’s elections, Netanyahu was chosen to form a government because rightwing parties as a whole did well.
Still, that is as nothing compared to the rolling slow motion civil war that sometimes appears to characterise Israeli politics. Very notable was the following observation:
There are still three other, smaller rightwing parties Netanyahu could call on to join him, although he has run into unexpectedly sharp policy differences, particularly over religious issues, such as conversion to Judaism and civil marriages. He has until Friday next week to form his government.
Which links to issues of radicalisation of the Israeli military by the religious which Christopher Hitchens raises in Slate saying that: “It’s high time the United States cut off any financial support for Israel that can be used even indirectly for settler activity, not just because such colonization constitutes a theft of another people’s land but also because our Constitution absolutely forbids us to spend public money on the establishment of any religion.”
All this in the week that the Guardian compiles a report of alleged war crimes by Israel in Gaza earlier this year.