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Monday, October 23, 2006

Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu joins Olmert-Peretz-Livni government

In what may result in the longest term in Israeli history for its least popular government, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, with its eleven Knesset seats, agreed to join the floundering Olmert-Peretz-Livni government this evening. Why? Hunger for power in my opinion. Also Lieberman is trying to get out from under the shadow of his former boss - Binyamin Netanyahu. Were Lieberman and Netanyahu to bring down the government, Lieberman would have played second fiddle again. And this way, he may even succeed in freezing Netanyahu out for another couple of years:
According to the deal, Lieberman will be a deputy prime minister and a minister without-portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office in charge of drafting Israel's policies relating to the strategic threats on Israel. He will coordinate between the security and intelligence agencies and the National Security Council.

"I decided that the present makeup of the coalition would not be enough to maintain a stable government," Olmert told the Kadima faction. "I think that Labor will be wise enough to remain in the government because I was not prepared to continue dealing with a situation in which every important coalition vote required negotiations with another coalition MK."

Olmert said he hoped Labor would decide to remain in the coalition when its central committee holds a decisive meeting on Sunday. Lieberman told his Israel Beiteinu faction that they were not joining the coalition to fight with anyone, including Labor.

Lieberman said he could "write a book already" on everything that has been said about him in the media regarding his motivation for joining the government. He said that people in the media find it hard to believe that a politician can make sound decisions for the good of the country over personal, political decisions.

The deal between Israel Beiteinu and Kadima said the two parties would work together to advance electoral reforms and to find a solution for couples prohibited to marry by the government due to Jewish law.

Lieberman came to the National Union-National Religious Party faction to try to persuade the MKs to support his electoral reform bill. National Union MKs, who were part of the same faction as Lieberman until earlier this year, slammed Lieberman for "betraying the Right" that he had hoped to lead.

"Israel Beiteinu sacrificed its principles by joining a left-wing government," National Union faction chairman Uri Ariel said. "It is irresponsible to save a government that the public, the IDF and the soldiers don't trust."
I can't wait to see what kind of deal Shas will accept for the 'non-marriageables.' (People who are not permitted to marry Jews under Jewish law).

On Friday, Caroline Glick dissected Lieberman:
Lieberman's public persona is in many ways an encapsulation of all that is wrong with Israel's leaders today. Like his colleagues on the Left, Lieberman touts an attractive sounding policy for dealing with the Arabs which only suffers from the marginal defect of being completely irrational.

The Left demands that we give our enemies Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights in exchange for a piece of paper. Lieberman intends to keep the Golan Heights, forgo the paper and throw in the Galilee to advance what he sees as ethnic partitioning.

When you get right down to it, the greatest difference between Lieberman and the Left is rhetorical. Lieberman is willing to give our land to our enemies because he hates the Arabs. The Left is willing to give our land to our enemies because they hate the Jews.

If the Left truly wanted peace with the Arabs, rather than signing deals with our enemies, its leaders would help to strengthen those lone voices in Palestinian society and in the wider Arab world that express a substantive, meaningful desire to live at peace with Israel.

If Lieberman were serious about solving the problem of growing irredentism among Israeli Arabs, he wouldn't be talking about partitioning the land between Israel and its enemies. He would be talking about partitioning Israel into electoral districts for direct elections of Knesset members. A review of Israel's demographic situation clearly indicates that by moving from a proportional to district electoral system, it would be possible to largely neutralize the threat to national security posed by anti-Israel forces among Israeli Arabs. But judging from Lieberman's past, it is far from clear that solving Israel's problems is his primary interest.


Today, Lieberman's proposal for governmental reform is cut to fit his own proportions. The proposal ignores the structural sources of the malfunction of the electoral system: the severe weakness of the Knesset and the disproportionate strength of the Supreme Court. His proposed reform relates almost exclusively to the executive branch of government. In calling for a presidential system of government, Lieberman notably limits his discussion to the job that he wishes to hold one day.

Lieberman argues that his plan must go through, and that getting it through justifies joining the Olmert government because today Israel's greatest problem is its governmental instability. This assertion is wrong for two reasons. First, the greatest deficit of Israel's governing system is not its instability, but its uneven checks and balances between the three arms of government. Second, Israel's most urgent problem today is not its malfunctioning political system, but its incompetent political leadership.

Lieberman further justifies his rush to join Olmert's government in spite of Olmert's refusal to give him a senior security portfolio, by claiming that his concern national security outweighs all other considerations. Yet his protestations are hardly convincing.

From Olmert's, Livni's, Peretz's and Halutz's refusal to take any responsibility for Israel's defeat in Lebanon this summer, and from their refusal to prepare Israel for the war that awaits it, they have proven themselves to be incompetent to fulfill their duties. As long as they remain in power, it doesn't matter who joins their coalition. Israel will not have leaders capable of defending it. Even if all the allegations against Lieberman prove groundless, even if his protestations of national responsibility are all true, his best intentions will be insufficient to turn the situation around.

While Lieberman's actions today will not help Israel, they will most certainly help Lieberman. Lieberman has made no attempt to hide his desire to see Israel Beiteinu replace the Likud as the leading right-wing party. But today he sees that opinion polls show the country wants for the Likud to form the next government.

Lieberman knows that if the Likud reconstitutes itself as the largest political party and leads the next governing coalition, his dream of transforming Israel Beiteinu into a major party and himself into the prime minister will be lost. Consequently, Lieberman is willing to join forces with Olmert to prolong the tenure of the current government in the hopes that by blocking new elections he will end the public's support for the Likud. According to this analysis, if Olmert remains prime minister for the next three years, the Likud will become irrelevant while Lieberman, a veteran government minister, would have a fair shot of becoming prime minister (or president).
Read it all.


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