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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There is no morality left in Israeli politics

On Monday night, I told you all that Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party was joining the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government, thereby selling out their right wing voters and insuring the survival of what may be the most unpopular government in Israel's history.

I thought that there was at least some chance that the Labor party still had some principles left and would quit the coalition over Yisrael Beiteinu's joining it. That is apparently not going to happen, as Defense Minister Amir Comrade Peretz was bought off about as cheaply as any politician in Israel's history:
In the meeting Wednesday morning between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Peretz told Olmert that he would recommend to his party central committee that they remain in the coalition.

They decided that the expansion of the coalition to include Israel Beiteinu would not change the coalition guidelines, nor would the acceptance of Party Chairman Avigdor Lieberman cause Peretz to lose any authority.

Among the issues discussed, Olmert approved the nomination of Labor faction chair Ephraim Sneh as deputy defense minister. [This is closing the barn door after the horse has left. I don't like Sneh, but he should have been given this position months ago when it was first suggested. He's a former general, so at least he understands how the army works, unlike Comrade Peretz. But the war is over already. CiJ]

The prime minister agreed that the government must post a welfare minister soon.

If United Torah Judaism will not join the government in "a reasonable period of time," then the welfare ministry will be given to Labor, Olmert said.

This would be a violation of a deal that Olmert made with Ya'akov Edri when he formed his government in April, in which the ministry was promised to Edri. [Nu, so Olmert lied. What else is new? CiJ]


Peretz will also head a ministerial committee on the Arab minority. [This is nonsense designed to be a sop to Labor's Arab voters over the fact that Peretz is going into a coalition with Lieberman. CiJ] Peretz requested that additional funding would go to the Arab minority, raising the minimum wage, child welfare, and old age payments.

Olmert responded that Peretz could raise the issues between the upcoming first vote in the Knesset on the 2007 state budget and its final reading. [At this point, there is very little Peretz can do about the budget. The coalition is strong enough that the budget is likely to fly through unchanged. CiJ]

Other incentives, which were intended to sweeten the deal of sitting in a coalition with Israel Beiteinu, which had not yet been officially addressed, reportedly include: The post of minister-without-portfolio in charge of minorities for MK Eitan Cabel and the chairmanship of a Knesset committee. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office denied reports that Olmert offered Labor the chairmanship of the Knesset's Finance Committee.
A New York Times editorial this morning misses the point:
Badly weakened by criticism of his conduct of this summer’s inconclusive war in Lebanon, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has chosen to make an unwise and damaging trade-off. Bringing the pro-settler Israel Beiteinu party into his governing coalition reinforces his vulnerable parliamentary majority. But it makes it virtually impossible for Mr. Olmert to carry out the partial West Bank withdrawal program he ran on just seven months ago. [Somehow, the Times has not heard yet that it was completely impossible for Olmert to carry out the convergence consolidation realignment surrender, expulsion and suicide plan long before Lieberman entered the government. CiJ]


American and European diplomats have been arguing that the one positive result of the Lebanon war could be new momentum toward a wider Middle East peace. The idea was that a new awareness of the limits of Israeli military power and growing Arab fears of Shiite radicalism would push both sides toward the necessary compromises.

That now seems less likely than ever. The chief Palestinian party, Hamas, refuses to take the most minimal steps required for diplomatic credibility — a clear rejection of terrorism, acceptance of prior agreements and acknowledgment of Israel’s legitimacy. Efforts by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to bring Hamas around have not gotten as much support as they should from Israel. With Israel Beiteinu joining Mr. Olmert’s coalition, they are likely to get even less.
I don't know what American and European diplomats have been making those arguments, but it should be clear to all that is not the direction in which things are heading. I don't care for Olmert and his efforts to be all things to all people. He is probably the most amoral leader Israel has ever had - his only principle is keeping himself in power. But he is definitely pursuing - and probably succeeding - in keeping himself in power. Soccer Dad got it right this morning when he said:
The problem the Times has is that its editors are so focused on a solution to the Middle East conflict that is not currently possible that it focuses on irrelevancies like the makeup of the Israeli government. Whether or not Avigdor Lieberman is in the government will not effect the "peace process" such as it is. What matters is whether or not the Palestinian view Israel as permanent. By failing to attach any responsibility or assess any penalty for their continued refusal to accept Israel, the editors of the New York Times do their part to prolong the conflict and increase the violence.
Earlier, I thought it likely that the budget would not pass and that we would have elections by June. I don't believe that will happen anymore. The budget is likely to sail through, since the coalition is now much larger, and Lieberman cares less about the budget.

What is more likely, in my opinion, is that Comrade Peretz loses the Labor primary in May or June and is ousted as the party leader (in fact, most pundits here regard it as a virtual certainty that Peretz will be ousted as party leader). Depending on who wins, Labor may join with Likud to bring down the government, which would have us looking at new elections next fall. Alternatively, it is possible that one or more of the many corruption cases against Olmert will result in an indictment (which would probably just mean that we get the ineffectual Livni in his place for some period of time) or that the results of some of the war investigations finally wake the public from its slumber.

You get the leadership you deserve. If more Israelis cared about how the country is run, we would all be much better off.


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