Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lenin Would Aprove


Vladimir Lenin would approve of the results of the upcoming Israeli election.

Only someone who believes that "the worse it is the better it is" could be happy about what is to befall us. Under any realistic scenario, this week's Israeli elections will be a victory of the hawks and the right. Among people who hope for peace and justice, only those who believe that "sharpening the contradictions" and "exposing the true face if Israel" will bring enough external pressure to bear so as to impose a solution, can be pleased.

For the rest of us, hope will be a lot harder.

The table below summarizes the probable election results in terms of seats in the 120 member Israeli Knesset.

Party

Max

Min

My Prediction

Likud

33

27

26

Kadima

28

23

25

Yirael Beiteynu

17

20

19

Labour

14

17

14

Shas

11

10

10

Meretz

8

5

5

Agudah

6

5

5

Nation Union

4

3

4

Habayit HaYehidit

4

3

3

Hadash

4

3

4

Raam-Taal

4

3

3

Balad

3

0

2

Green-Meimad

2

0

0

Pensioners

2

0

0

Total

120


For those not familiar with Israeli parties, here are short descriptions of each:
  • Likud - "mainstream" right wing hawkish party. One both the economy and foreign affairs equivalent to the right wing of the U.S. Republicans. Margret Thatcher and Paul Wolfowich would both feel comfortable in this party. Against a two state solution.
  • Kadima - party of Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Says it is for a two state solution, but not willing to give up major settlement block in the West Bank. Trigger happy (started two wars in two and half years.) Right of centre economically. A "pragmatic" as opposed to an "ideological" party. May fall apart if left in opposition, as it has has no deep roots, having been founded only in 2005.
  • Yisrael Beytenu - Russian based far right party. Extreme Jewish nationalist and openly anti-Arab. Racist and para-fascist are accurate terms IMO. Militantly secular as well. Believes Israel should treat Gaza the way Putin treated Chechnya. Believes in transfer of Arabs out of Israel, or stripping them of their vote.
  • Labour - remnant of the party that once ruled Israel. Now the party of the Tel Aviv business elite and some old trade union bosses, and nobless oblige. In practice, only slightly more dovish than Kadima. Lead by Ehud Barak as a person fiefdom and who seems at odds with everyone else in the party leadership.
  • Shas - Sefardi ultra-Orthodox Party. Against any territorial concessions in Jerusalem, and against any "major" concessions in the West Bank. But mostly concerned with funding for religious institutions and promoting religious issues.
  • Meretz - left/dovish Zionist party. Now the home base of Amos Oz and Peace Now.
  • Agudah - Ashekenzi ultra-Orthodox Party. Officially neutral on issues of the West Bank, though quite happy to keep them. Mostly concerned with funding for religious institutions and promoting religious issues.
  • National Union - pro settler - "not one inch" party. Strong religious influence.
  • Habayit Hayehudit - "National Religious" party. Like the National Union, but more polite, and also more concerned with promoting religious issues.
  • Hadash - Arab/Jewish front party - dominates by the Israeli Communist Party - making a concerted bid for the Jewish alternative left and the environmental vote.
  • Raam-Taal - Coalition of Palestinian nationalists and moderate "Southern" Islamic parties.
  • Balaad - Pan Arab Nationalist Party: secular socialist.
  • Green-Meimad - Coalition of Green Party and the moderate religious party Meimad (formerly allied with Labour)
  • Pensioners Party - currently part of the Kadima government, but willing to support any government that will support positions favorable to pensioners.

Below is my analysis of possible coalitions.

Party

Hard Right 1

Hard Right 2

Right

National

Union 1

National Union 2

National Union 3

Centre Right

Centre

Likud

26

26

26

26

26

26

0

Kadima

0

0

0

25

25

25

25

25

Yisrael Beiteynu

19

19

19

19

19

0

19

0

Labour

0

0

14

14

14

14

14

14

Shas

10

10

10

10

0

0

10

10

Meretz

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

Agudah

0

5

5

5

0

0

5

Nation Union

4

4

4

4

4

0

0

Habayit HaYehidit

3

3

3

3

3

0

0

Hadash

0

0

0

0

0

0

Raam-Taal

0

0

0

0

0

0

Balad

0

0

0

0

0

0

Green

0

0

0

0

0

0

Pensioners

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

62

67

81

107

93

68

68

59


The last three columns represent possible coalitions that are only realistic if Kadima somehow manages to get a chance at forming the government - if for instance they get one more seat than the Likud, or if they offer Yisrael Beytaneu so much that they prefer a Kadima lead coalition to a Likud lead one, or if the Likud somehow fails to form a coalition within the allowed 40 days. All these scenarios are extremely unlikely.

What is likely, is that:

(a) Netanyahu and the Likud will form the government - a leader and a party that has explicitly ruled out a two state solution. "There will be no Palestinian sovereignty as long as I am Prime Minister" Netanyahu has said; and the Likud platform speaks only of "limited autonomy of Palestinian areas." Netanyahu has also ruled out any Israeli concessions on the Golan, so we can kiss goodbye to any hope of a treaty with Syria, something that might have wrenched it out of the orbit of Iran, and brought some stability to Lebanon as well. And also, watch out for an Israeli attack on Iran if Netanyahu is Prime Minister. Netanyahu is obsessed with the Iranian nuclear threat, and believes Israel must do anything and everything, with our without U.S. backing, to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

(b) Lieberman and other Yisrael Beytenu pols will get many, and important, ministry posts. This is true even if, somehow Kadima squeeks out a win over Likud. For the first time, Israel will have an openly anti-Arab party in an influential position in government. Lieberman himself was formerly a member of Rabbi Kahane's now banned racist party - Kach. More recently he has declared Russia's Putin as his role model. He has made "a racially homogeneous" state - code for transferring as many Israeli Arabs as possible to future Palestinian areas - a mainstay of his party's platforms. Y.B's current campaign slogan is "No citizenship without loyalty", code for revoking citizenship from Israeli Arabs who are deemed insufficiently loyal - like not singing the Jewish national anthem, or lobbying that Israel become a "state of all its citizens" rather than a formally "Jewish State". Y.B. lead the attempt to ban 2 of Israel's Arab parties from running in the current elections (a move stopped only by Israel's Supreme Court.) It is likely that Leiberman himself will become either Minister of Finance, Foreign Minister, or Interior Minister - positions that will allow him both to do much damage as well as hand out favours that will increase his party's power in future elections.

(c) There will be many more super hawkish ministers. The National Union, and Habayit Hayehudit, are both committed pro-settler parties. In the Likud itself, the hawks have trounced the moderates: Netanyahu is now in the weaker "left" wing of his party ! Over and above official governmnet policy, these Ministers will use their positions to grow the settler movement, and make Israeli withdrawl from the West Bank even more difficult than it is today.

(d) There will be more clericist / religious ministers, as Shas and Agudah appear in almost all possible coalitions. (Ironically, Y.B. - if it is in a strong enough position - may try keep Shas and Agudah out of gov't, since, in keeping with being para-fascists, Y.B. is militantly secular.

(e) No matter which coalition is formed, there will be a strong faction of the Knesset members against Palestinian sovereignty and/or major territorial concession to the Palestinians. This includes: Likud 26 (no Palestinian sovereignty), Shas 10 (no major land concessions and no concessions at all in Jerusalem), National Union 4 (no land concessions in the West Bank, and lets take back Gaza), Habayit Hayehudit 3 (no major land concessions in the West Bank). Add to that, Yisrael Beitenu - 19 - which is only willing to see Palestinian Sovereignty if Israel keeps all the large settlement block and the Palestinians absorb large chunks of Israel's Arab population into their State - and you have an effective road block to any sort of two state solution.

This will likely be the most right wing government Israel has ever seen, and it will likely kill any hopes for a two state solution.

For the radicals - on both sides - this may be good news. For the rest of us ... not so much.

If I am right, it will be interesting to see how liberal Jews in the diaspora continue to frame their support for Israel. It will be interesting to see how the Zionist opposition parties in Israel frame their opposition - as timid as in the past, or, finally, as a fighting opposition using all means at their disposal. It will be interesting to see if the Obama administration will confront the new Israeli political reality, or merely be content to pretend to promote a settlement.

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