As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You Know It's Hard Out Here For A Likudnik

So Bibi Netanyahu will form the new Israeli government. Only he wants a unity coalition rather than the natural coalition made up entirely of parties from the right. And he's constrained by a new US Administration that wants him to stop expanding the settlements and work toward peace. With Kadima and Labour likely to reject his calls for a unity government, Netanyahu is actually in a precarious position.

Ms. Livni, the current foreign minister and Mr. Netanyahu’s main rival for the premiership, has so far refused the idea of joining a government led by Mr. Netanyahu and including several ultra-orthodox and far-right parties. Committed to the peace process with the Palestinians, she has said she would rather go into the opposition than serve as a fig-leaf for a coalition of the right.

Mr. Barak, whose Labor Party fared badly in the elections, has already said he would heed the will of the people and head into the opposition [...]

Shalom Yerushalmi, a columnist in Friday’s Maariv newspaper, described such a government as Mr. Netanyahu’s “nightmare.”

“The narrow government he formed in 1996 fell apart in stages,” Mr. Yerushalmi noted. “Netanyahu swore that he would not make a narrow government again, and would never again be the prime minister of half the people.”

And what's remarkable is that American politicians are feeling free to speak out about the situation in Gaza in ways I haven't seen before. Pushing from the American benefactors is the surest way to rein in Likud.

“The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering” said (Brian) Baird, “Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental water, sewer, and electricity facilities hit and relief agencies heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching – what went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words.”

Inquiring about the status of relief efforts, the Congressmen learned that some aid material has been allowed in since the intensity of the attacks lessened a month ago, but much is still being blocked by the Israeli defense forces. Examples of aid that has been banned by the Israeli Government include: lentils, macaroni, tomato paste, lentils and other food. Basic building materials, generator fuel and parts to repair damaged water treatment equipment have also been kept out.

“If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance. We are glad that the Obama administration acted quickly to send much needed funding for this effort but the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food and repair essentials is unacceptable and indefensible. People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in” said Baird and (Keith) Ellison.

This is especially shocking coming from Brian Baird, the guy who supported the surge in Iraq and seemed to welcome thumbing his nose at doves in his own party.

I don't want to oversell this. The peace process is probably dead for a couple years. But Netanyahu clearly doesn't want to lead the way he did in 1996, because he knows that the same fragmenting would result. So this is a far-right government that wants to mask their far-right policies. If he's forced to do so, Netanyahu may not survive more than a year or two, and maybe we'll get a government that can move the process forward again. Either that, or Netanyahu will have to "go to China" and embark on a peace program due to internal constraints. I didn't think I would be hopeful about Israel/Palestine after the election, and I'm still not, but there's a road to hope.

Labels: , , , , , , ,