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Thursday, February 26, 2009

When Bibi meets Tzipi

Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni will be meeting Friday for what Netanyahu calls a 'decisive' meeting on whether or not there will be a 'unity government.'

In the meantime, a 'unity' meeting of a different sort is going on Thursday in Cairo. That meeting is between the 'good terrorists' from Fatah and the 'bad terrorists' from Hamas. They are also trying to make up.

And in a third headline in Thursday's media, Netanyahu says that if the Hamas - Fatah talks are 'successful,' Israel will not negotiate with the resulting entity. All three stories are connected. Here's how.

Hamas and Fatah are getting back together. And the result is going to be Hamas taking over Judea and Samaria. This is from Ma'an.
The five committees of Hamas and Fatah negotiators will hammer out the details of a plan to restore unity to Palestinian politics after nearly two years of division. The panels will address the formation of a transitional government, the timing of elections, reform of the security services, the integration of Hamas into the PLO, and other issues.

Radwan said that several Palestinian factions would be involved in the PLO committee, which will reform the PLO based on a 2005 Hamas-Fatah agreement. Currently Hamas and Islamic Jihad are barred from the organization.

Radwan said Hamas views the Egyptian-sponsored talks with Hamas “positively,” welcoming Fatah’s pledge to release Hamas political prisoners in the West Bank. He said the prisoners should be released soon if the talks are to succeed. He also said it would be critical for the Palestinian Authority to reopen Hamas-linked educational, charity, health and media institutions that had been shut down in the West Bank.
Once the prisoners are released and those institutions are opened, Hamas will take over Judea and Samaria (except for where the Jews are).

Hamas and Fatah are getting back together because Hamas cannot rebuild Gaza otherwise. The 'international community' is more comfortable sending money via the 'Palestinian Authority' (which Hamas will accept so long as Hamas is a part of it) and a marriage between Fatah and Hamas will make it easier for that to happen. Both Hamas and Fatah have bought into the Israeli Left's screaming about the 'extreme right wing government' that is about to take power here, and they are genuinely afraid that they will spend the next four years with Gaza shut off to the world and Israel not even maintaining the facade of a 'peace process.' So Hamas and Fatah are getting back together in the hope of reopening Gaza and allowing arms and money to flow through.

Binyamin Netanyahu is already threatening that he will not talk to a 'Palestinian' entity in which Hamas is a part. He plans to try to convince Hillary Clinton and the United States not to talk to a combined entity either.
Zalman Shoval, one of Netanyahu's five primary foreign policy advisers, said the Netanyahu diplomatic team was "trying to persuade whomever" that a Palestinian Authority unity government is a bad idea.

"We shall try to convince our American friends that this is not something that would help the peace process, and that it would only make it easier for all sorts of other players - the Europeans and the Russians - to deal with Hamas," he said. "To return Hamas as a partner is not what America is interested in."
History is on Bibi's and Shoval's side (Shoval was the ambassador to the United Statesin Yitzchak Shamir's government).
Shoval said history had shown that when there was an amalgamation between a moderate and an extremist party, it was only a matter of time before the extremists called the shots. He used as an example the Nazi party's union in 1933 with the German National People's Party. He noted that within a year the latter party had disappeared and concluded that the end result of a Hamas-Fatah merger would not be a more moderate Palestinian political entity, but a more radical one.

"The idea is the wrong one," he said, adding that Netanyahu's camp believed the right approach was to continue to isolate Hamas.

"I'm not saying we can prevent it, but we should try," he said.

Another adviser to Netanyahu said that the international community had laid out three conditions for Hamas to accept, and that it was necessary for Hamas to accept them and not sweep them under the rug.

Those conditions are recognizing Israel's right to exist, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
But Netanyahu knows that the Europeans are waiting for just such an opening to talk to Hamas. For example, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband:
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Wednesday that speaking to Hamas was "the right thing to do," but Egypt and other parties were best suited to talking directly to the group.

In an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Miliband said Egypt was acting on behalf of the whole world in its dealings with Hamas.

"Egypt has been nominated... to speak to Hamas on behalf of the Arab League but actually on behalf of the whole world," Miliband said. "Others speak to Hamas. That's the right thing to do and I think we should let the Egyptians take this forward."
Netanyahu knows that even the US can no longer be counted on now that the Obama administration is in power (think of Power as a double entendre). Netanyahu needs an insurance policy to make sure that there is no effective opposition to him when he refuses to talk to the 'new' 'Palestinian Authority.' And as a bonus, he wants an insurance policy to make sure that there is no meaningful opposition in Israel when he goes after Iran, which he knows and we know that he is going to have to do. That insurance policy's name is Tzipi Livni.

If Livni is in the government when Netanyahu refuses to talk to the combined Hamas - Fatah entity, the only parties that will object will be the Arab parties and possibly Meretz. "What about Labor" you might ask? Labor may be going into the government too. We;ll talk about that in a minute.

Netanyahu is going to make Livni an offer she cannot refuse on Friday. He won't offer her a rotating Prime Minister's office. He doesn't have to for reasons I will go into after looking at what the offer will be:
Various sources who spoke with the Likud leader said they were uncertain whether he was optimistic ahead of the meeting. However, one source said that "it appears he intends to further accommodate Livni. He genuinely wishes to bring Kadima into the government and establish a broad coalition."

Meanwhile, sources close to Livni said she may change her position on joining the coalition should the prime minister-designate unequivocally clear up three issues: His support for the two-state solution, changing the government system, and civil marriages.

"The two most significant main issues are the diplomatic and religious ones," a Livni associate said. A senior Kadima official said that "if Netanyahu will back the two-state solution and offer a rotation, it will be difficult to say no to him."
Livni will drop the rotating Prime Minister and go into the government as Foreign Minister because 85%(!) of Kadima's voters want her to do just that. Yes, you're reading correctly, 85%. That's the number in a Shvakim Panorama poll on Israel Radio this morning. 85% of Kadima's voters want Livni to go into a government headed by Netanyahu. And Netanyahu will bring her in because somewhere on the order of 60% of Likud's voters want him to bring her in. They will agree easily on changing the government and civil marriage. And they will even agree easily on the 'two-state solution.' Why? Because if Hamas and Fatah are merged, there isn't going to be a 'two-state solution.' Netanyahu is going to say that he won't talk to the merged entity and Livni will agree with him because almost no Israeli Jews are willing to talk to Hamas. Netanyahu will say he accepts the 'two-state solution' but only with a Fatah-only entity. And Livni will agree because if she doesn't her career is over and her party will disintegrate.

As to Barak, 76%(!) of Labor's voters in the same survey want to be in a government with the Likud under Netanyahu's leadership, and 56% of Likud's voters want Labor inside. If Labor comes in (for a 68-seat government), Netanyahu no longer needs Avigdor Lieberman with all the discomfort he causes. If Labor doesn't come in, they will either put up with Lieberman (for a 70-seat government) or they will bring in Shas (for a 66-seat government).

Bottom line: By reconciling, Hamas and Fatah will pave the way for Likud and Kadima to reconcile and form a national unity government and they will probably set back a 'Palestinian' state reichlet by 10-20 years, if not more. If the Hamas - Fatah talks flounder for some reason, Netanyahu and Livni will have a shelf agreement, Netanyahu will say that he accepts a two-state solution provided Fatah cleans up the terror first (which they cannot and will not) or some similar figleaf so that he is not ostracized by the Obama administration, and Livni will remain in opposition until the Fatah - Hamas merger happens (which it will eventually) and will back Netanyahu when he attacks Iran.

Who are the losers in this scenario? Depending on how civil marriage is set up, the religious parties and public may be losers. If civil marriage is limited to non-Jews and to those who are not permitted to marry freely under religious laws (such as people who were born in an out-of-wedlock relationship involving a married woman who has not been properly religiously divorced), then the religious parties may not object. But if civil marriage is going to allow anyone to marry anyone freely, then the religious parties will be losers.

The small parties will be losers if the electoral system changes. Perhaps this would be a good time for the four religious parties - who would have had thirty seats in the Knesset had they combined according to surveys - to think about getting together for the next election. Those parties are Shas (11), United Torah Judaism (5), National Union (4) and Jewish Home (3) for a current total of 23 seats. Otherwise, all but Shas may find themselves on the outside if the electoral system changes.

And the 'Palestinians' will be losers. Once again, they will have taken advantage of an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

But for the Likud, Kadima and Labor (or Yisrael Beiteinu), it will be a win-win situation.


At 5:25 PM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

great analysis Carl. It is very plausible, and would right now given the hostility to Israel in America be the best case scenario for Israel.

While I like the thought of Bibi being constrained by right wing parties, having a harpie who is too clever by half in opposition will make it so the "extremist right wing" government has no room to maneuver, while Livni would run a shadow government in the US and Europe, inviting meddling from the Mitchell gang and the EU.

Of course, she may simply do this from the FM office anyway, while inside the government. She was a terrible FM and has harmed Israel with her diplomatic adventures with Condi Rice egging her on.

How much control will Bibi have over her even if she is in the government? She can still do a lot of damage.

At 7:24 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its possible - the reality is though whether the Palestinians unite or not for the reasons Carl observed yesterday on "why the peace process is dead" - a two-state solution is not going to happen. Either way, Abbas is not in a position to deliver the goods. All Israelis across the political spectrum are rightly concerned not with the Palestinians but with Iran and in a wartime situation, there is precedent for political rivals to work together. The Conservatives and Labor in the UK were part of a National Unity government during World War II. No one in Israel expects the parties to drop all their differences but they do expect them to put the country first for now.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger adagioforstrings said...

As an American, I found Netanyahu to be rather annoying when he said that Arabs don't hate the US because the US supports Israel, but that Arabs hate Israel because Israel receives support from the US, basically blaming the US for the Arab-Israeli conflict. I don't have a problem supporting an ally. I don't appreciate when said ally is ungrateful, if not downright backstabbing.


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