In this week’s column at Souciant, I take a closer look at the outcome of the Israeli election. Particularly, I examine the idea that Yair Lapid’s surprising showing and the broader split between the nationalist and religious camps and the so-called center now makes a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict more feasible. Put simply, I think not.
This article was published at LobeLog
Well, here it is, the day after. The Israeli elections are over, but the form of the next government is not at all clear. Most likely, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu party
will form a government with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party being the main partner. This is by far the most likely scenario, though others possibilities exist, even a million-to-one long shot that Lapid could form a government. Labor is likely to be leading the opposition, unless Lapid surprises everyone and stays out of a Netanyahu-led government.
The new Knesset will be somewhat less tilted to the right than the last one, but this is not likely to make a big difference in terms of Israel’s approach to the Palestinians. Indeed, in some ways, it might serve Netanyahu to have a friendlier face in Lapid to cover policies that might be slightly different rhetorically but essentially the same on the ground. More than anything else, the shift in government is going to be felt domestically, in terms of greater attention to civic and economic issues. Indeed, no Israeli election in my memory compares to this one for the dominance of domestic over security issues.
Given that there’s still more to see before the full ramifications of the election are known, I’ll engage here with a few winners and losers. Continue reading
In preparation for the Israeli elections next week, I’m taking a week off from writing about Israel and turning attention to another important issue, the mad passion for guns in the United States. So this week’s piece at Souciant argues that guns are, in essence, the United States version of a Golden Calf and underline the urgency of changing the gun culture. Changing laws is a necessary first step in doing that, a difficult one, but the only one that starts such a cultural process and still does some good right now.
My latest piece on Alternet takes an in-depth look at Naftali Bennett, the rising star in Israeli politics. Bennett is a much more serious man than the last such new leader, Avigdor Lieberman. Intelligent and articulate, Bennett has a much wider appeal and could very well define the future of Israel and its relationship to both the Palestinians and the international community. He is not to be taken lightly.
In recent weeks, a few incidents have begun to raise questions about the vaunted power of the so-called “Israel Lobby” and whether its influence might be waning. First there
were the AIPAC-backed congressional bills that sought to level sanctions on the Palestinian Authority to punish it for having gone to the United Nations in seeking and winning an upgrade in their status to one that implied statehood and granted it a few more rights in the international system. Those bills both died before reaching the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives. More recently, there was the row over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense. That nomination went forward and it has since become evident that, despite some disparaging comments from a few Senators, Hagel is likely to be confirmed.
Those aren’t small failures for “the Lobby”, but the circumstances around them should be examined to put them in context. The two events do indicate the potential beginnings of a shift in the discourse around US policy in the Middle East, but it’s important not to make more out of this than there is. Continue reading
This article was published at Alternet.
The former head of Israel’s General Security Service, commonly known as the Shin Bet, has caused quite a stir with an interview that roasts Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu alive. Yuval Diskin paints a disturbing picture of Netanyahu as a leader who, far more than most, is motivated by personal political gain rather than by strategy. Cynically, and one might even say appropriately, most of us routinely ascribe such motives to most politicians, but Diskin’s point is that Netanyahu leans much more toward this motivation than most.
When one considers the amount of power an Israeli Prime Minister holds, and the impact Israeli actions have on world events, having someone like the man Diskin describes in that office is alarming even while it explains much about why, even for Middle East affairs, the current status quo is so bleak. But here in the United States, it should also give us pause as we consider who this man is that our Congress, led by the Israel Lobby, is so enthralled with.
Diskin describes all the other Prime Ministers he worked under since Menachem Begin as ultimately being driven by their view of Israel’s best interests. He does not suggest they were immune to personal interest, but that when it came to the really crucial security decisions, it was not their primary motivation. But Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak, are different, says Diskin: “Unfortunately the feeling that I have, and that many senior security officials have, is that when we talk about Netanyahu and Barak, that with them the personal, opportunistic and current interests, are the thing that take precedence over anything else. And I emphasize that I am reflecting here something that not only I feel, but also many of the colleagues at my level with whom I spoke.” Whether Diskin’s assessment of historical Israeli leadership is on target, the fact remains that he obviously sees a huge difference in the extent to which personal gain motivates the current government’s top decision-makers. Continue reading
Many of you may have seen my piece for Jewish Voice for Peace’s Muzzlewatch blog last week, analyzing the hateful campaign against the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel. Well, today, JVP put out an action alert on this issue. Please take a moment to take this action and send a message to President Obama that you are tired of AIPAC and its fellow travelers having such undue and disproportionate influence over US political and diplomatic appointments and, indeed, over our policy in general. Here is the alert: