Well, this has been a rough month for Israel. The worst of the fears that led me to write about the morons who run Israel on the night of the flotilla fiasco, have come true. Israel engaged in a humiliating back and forth with the US in trying to get a fauxtilla investigation committee that would be acceptable – a clear sign of abdication of sovereignty and a clearer sign of weakness without leverage. The UN continues to attack Israel and, in fact, has indicated that even Israel’s US-approved committee was insufficient in a prelude to what may become a Goldstone II type investigation. The Israelis have eased up the blockade on Gaza, undermining their own previous claims about its absolute necessity, and proving that the flotilla had won a war against Israel without having to engage in anything other than propaganda and some bullet-less combat. The Israelis have also abetted those who would boycott them by giving them yet another excuse to boycott, weakening the argument of those who were neutral on the subject and providing another obstacle to those who fight the boycotts. Ironically, it appears that the organizers of this fiasco, Netanyahu and Barak, are going to walk away from it with nothing more than some bruising of egos. And, as if on cue, Israel suddenly faces another PR nightmare in the form of the (perfectly justified) Silwan redevelopment plan which shows that the Israelis are willing to walk into another unnecessary and harmful anti-Israel propaganda trap.
Jerusalem has other concerns, of course, as the recent Emmanuel school protests have shown. There is a unified Haredi camp of significant size out there. Over 100,000 men showed up to protest the jailing of members of their community, justified though it was. To the credit of this community, their protest was peaceful and mostly devoid of negative and aggressive speech. The men of the couples ordered to prison showed up and went quietly. The wives didn’t show up, but I have to say that this was understandable considering the number of children likely still at home who would remain without a parent to care for them. This was an impressive show of strength and dignity by this crowd which may have had strong anti-Zionist elements within it but did not act that way except in one critical respect, that of placing their faith ahead of the secular state’s laws. Liat Collins has noted in the Jerusalem Post:
Stepping up the rhetoric as they climbed ever higher up a shaky metaphorical tree, the community’s leaders compared the High Court’s decision that the girls study together to everything from the evil decrees issued by of Antiochus the Greek against the Jews in Temple times, to forced conversions during the Spanish Inquisition, czarist oppression and even â€“ without any sign of shame â€“ to Nazi anti-Semitism.
Israel needs to integrate the Haredim into its general population by eliminating subsidies that permit current family size to be maintained (these are families with 8, 10 or more children) so that family heads are compelled to work and pay taxes as do the rest of Israelis (except most Arab Israelis, but that’s a different discussion). The state of Israel should also stop allowing and supporting segregated education for the Haredim and providing exclusion from military service. At a minimum, they should serve in a national service program for 2-3 years. These changes won’t preclude them from marrying and having children or from studying Torah. They will, however, have the beneficial effect of improving integration between their community and other Israeli communities.
Israel also has to worry about the confidence the Arab-Israeli population and their leadership have shown in attacking the foundational premises of the state, supporting its enemies with words and deeds and in becoming part and parcel of the Palestinian propaganda machine and its endless incitement against Israel. Again, the solution here is similar to what should happen with the Haredim. If Israel does not have the courage to attempt to integrate this community, and I do understand this reluctance because it may give those who seek to undermine the Jewish state greater affluence and points of influence with which to promote their war on the state of the Jews. However, it appears to me that this approach is more logical than the approach proposed by Avigdor Lieberman, which is simply to lop off the areas with the greatest percentage of Arab Israelis and then to hand them off to the new Palestinian state. If my approach doesn’t work, then Lieberman’s may have greater influence than it does today, but without even trying, how could anybody really know or claim to know?
Of course, the worst part of all of this is that with all of these distractions, it’s hard to see who has time to focus on Iran. There have been rumors of Israeli helicopters dropping off military equipment in Saudi Arabia, presumably in preparation for a possible attack against Iran. Could be true and could be disinformation. Who knows? One thing is certain, though, and that is that with all of the self-inflicted wounds Israel is fighting to heal, nobody has had a chance to spend anywhere near as much time as necessary on figuring out how to tackle Iran.
It’s not going to happen, but this government should fall. It is hurting prospects for peace and only encouraging the advent of war. And if Israel’s leaders have proven anything in the past couple of years, it is that they simply don’t understand the nature of the wars they’re facing.
Fortunately, we have photographs of Tel Aviv at night to help us sleep.
(First image source; second image source)
Kind of a downer TM
I’ve been in a downer mood regarding Israel’s leadership for a couple of years now. They have helped their enemies in one instance after another, leaving Israel weakened to a degree that I can’t recall in my adult life. That is bad enough, but the real problem is that the leadership will remain the same for the foreseeable future and the problems they face are profoundly complex. We should all be very concerned.
So what are Israel’s forseeable future plans regarding the occupied territories?
How is “The Jewish State” going to deal with it’s obvious demographic problem. What happens when Arabs become 30 percent of the population? How about 40 percent? How do you integrate an already citizen population that has nothing but bitterness for the whole enterprise?
How is Israel going to “handle” Iran? Do you not think starting yet another armed conflict with a neighboring country counts as yet another self inflicted wound?
Good questions, DRR. If you don’t mind, I’d adjust your questions somewhat. Instead of “occupied territories” you should write “occupied territory” or to be more accurate, “disputed territory.” Instead of “The Jewish state” you should write the Jewish state, without quotation marks. And of course, the last question, “starting yet another armed conflict with a neighboring country” should be something closer to “being engaged in another armed conflict with a neighboring country.”
The fact that the UN won’t get on board with a committee approved by USA+Israel reflects much more badly on the US than it does on Israel. And we can thank Obama for that. The POTUS figured that if he put public pressure on Israel (or as some would call it, “initiate a more even-handed approach to Middle East policy”) then he’d be sharing more common ground with European and Middle Eastern leaders, and they’d be more likely to trust him when it came time to, for example, carry out an investigation like this. Of course any fool could have predicted that this would backfire. His Middle East policies — Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, you name it — are in shambles because if he can’t get other nations on board with his plan to investigate this stupid flotilla, then they’ll never support him on issues that, you know, actually matter.
middle – i sort of have a problem with you hoping the government will fall. it was democratically elected, and while i disagree with some of its actions, and the statements of some of its members, including some on the opposition (as a side note, i still don’t understand how a member of the government, even one on the opposition, can claim that they are not part of the government), i cannot, in good faith, wish for the government to fall. to the contrary, i, wish for the government to last through its full alloted period, but that it act with better insight and reason.
Dahlia, I know you know all this already, but not all readers might.
Israel has a parliamentary system where the leader of the leading party tends to be the PM. To remind you, this government is made up of a coalition of parties. In fact, Netanyahu’s party received fewer votes than Kadima at the last election. This isn’t the US where one party’s leader wins the majority of votes and then sits for 4 years until the next election.
Also to remind you, it was Tzipi Livni’s brave stance on refusing to sell out to the smaller parties in order to create a coalition, and Netanyahu’s willingness to do so – a willingness that has cost Israel dearly in the Ramat Shlomo fiasco instigated by Eli Yishai, one of the heads of the coalition parties to which Livni refused to give in – that brought him into the PM’s office.
In a strong democracy, there is a healthy opposition that supports the country but criticizes the mistakes of the ruling party or coalition. That opposition, especially in a parliamentary system, also seeks to arrive at the day when they are able to form a coalition or lead themselves. And no, that opposition is not the government. It isn’t the government because it does not have the votes necessary to push laws through. On the day it does, it calls for a no-confidence vote to bring down the government.
As for the people, for them politics are about supporting one party over another. They assess the platform of one party and deem it superior to other parties. Needless to say, they can be in support of some of the country’s leadership’s actions even if their party isn’t leading, just as they can be critical of the leading party and seek that their party rise into the leadership through another election. Wanting to do so before automatic elections kick in is perfectly democratic, particularly when the current government is a coalition.
I do not believe that Israel’s current leadership is effective and hope that in a legal and democratic manner this government will be changed soon. This could happen with a no-confidence vote in the Knesset, or the resignation of Netanyahu. It could even happen with a new call for elections by Netanyahu because he feels confident that he would improve his party’s standing.
This process is absolutely democratic and, in fact, desirable. It is one of the ways that a government’s feet are held to the fire while they govern.
One last related comment: I don’t think the current parliamentary system in Israel benefits most Israelis in that the small parties carry outsize weight to the detriment of the majority of Israelis. However, this government and the last few have all had the opportunity to do something about these problems and have preferred to do nothing.
Middle – I disagree on the point that the opposition is not a part of the government. Perhaps its merely an issue of semantics, but as I see it, the opposition is part of the government; they were voted in and are members of the Knesset, they vote on bills, and they make political statements. They are not in the “ruling” coalition, but that does not make them not part of the government. It simply makes them the oppositional coalition.
I agree that this system is flawed, and that there are certain small parties which hold far too much power. I, also, concur with you, in that there are members of the government with which I agree, and ones with which I do not, and that it is difficult to hold them to account in a parliamentary system.
Last, while I concede that a vote of “no confidence” is within the democratic process, I would prefer to see an Israeli government last for its full period (which is a rarity in Israel). Also, despite the membership of more rightist elements within the coalition, we cannot forget that Labor, which is on the left, is also in the coalition. While I would like for some of the smaller, religious parties to have FAR less power, and for Kadima to join the coalition, that would, also, require for Livni to be willing to take the spot of #2, instead of #1 in the opposition.
Last, I want to point out that it is not only Leftists which make peace. The first peace treaty which Israel signed with an enemy state, the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, was led by Menachem Begin, a right-winger if there ever was one.
I didn’t say I wanted the Left in power. I didn’t even say I wanted Kadima or Livni in power. All I know is that this government has caused more damage to Israel, with very little benefit at all, than any government I can recall, and that includes Olmert’s flawed war with Hizbullah. It doesn’t matter whether they are Right or Left. They stink.
Remaining in power for the sake of completing a term is not productive and could cause far more damage to Israel over the next couple of years. This government should fall.
As for the question of what constitutes the government in a parliamentary democracy, I agree that it’s a semantics game. Sure, the opposition receives a salary and can introduce and vote on bills, but they do not govern in the sense that they cannot control the decisions of the government or put together a majority. I don’t think, for example, that Hadash members consider themselves part of the government.
middle – excellent point with regards to whether a government should stay in power, just for the sake of it. with regards to Hadash – i don’t know. i wonder whether they consider themselves government employees? as a non-zionist communist party, i would assume that even that should be problematic…
scroll ISRAEL…scroll TelAviv & it’s hell-shabbat..scroll these awful criminals, who are born to kill the childhood in every Palestinian, their innocence , their rights in their land, & their rights to live a normal life in their own home, scroll Those Israeli not jewish!!!