Israel: Labor Party Votes Itself Out Of Existence
Benjamin Netanyahu's biggest fear was a coalition government consisting entirely of the far-right, without the fig leaf of unity. Ehud Barak's biggest fear, apparently, was irrelevancy. The two got together.
Israel's Labor Party voted Tuesday to join the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, lending a moderate voice to a coalition dominated by hard liners and easing concerns of a head-on confrontation with Washington over Mideast peacemaking.
Chants of "Disgrace! Disgrace!" echoed through the convention hall after Defense Minister Ehud Barak pushed through the proposal despite angry opposition from party activists who feared Labor would give only a superficial gloss to a government little interested in moving toward peace.
Labor's move gives Netanyahu's coalition a majority of 66 in the 120-seat parliament.
Those numbers above assume that every member of the Labor Party will agree to joining the coalition government. I find that highly unlikely, and what will probably happen is that Labor will fracture, as they did on the ultimate vote to join the government (it was a 680-507 vote). So the Israeli "left," which didn't really exist to begin with, has now a stake through its heart thanks to Mr. Barak's vanity, and those still committed to some manner of principle can now rebuild. So maybe in the end, this is positive. But in the near term, this is the activities to which Barak has given consent, the racist worldview of his new colleague Avigdor Lieberman:
On Tuesday, Jewish extremists marched through the northern Israeli-Arab town of Umm el-Fahm, demanding residents show loyalty to Israel and setting off stone-throwing protests by Arab youths that police dispersed with stun grenades and tear gas. No serious injuries were reported, but residents denounced the march on one of Israel's largest Arab communities.
I may be some dirty hippie American Jew, but my views seem pretty much in line with Amir Oren of Haaretz:
Barak is distorting the essence in presenting his fervor to join forces with Netanyahu as the voters' will. In that way he can present any combination that wins a majority in the Knesset.
He could even claim that a government headed by Ahmed Tibi and supported by Avigdor Lieberman, Barak and Shas represented the public's choice.
Barak and Netanyahu deserve each other. Barak is afraid of being left out. Netanyahu is scared to be left inside, alone. But don't worry: The day will come when they too become ridiculous myths, just like Olmert.
Anybody who thinks Barak will be some kind of counterweight in the Israeli government deludes themselves willingly. He is a cipher, and destroying the pathetic Labor Party has been his one decent act, unintentional though it may have been.