Friday, August 20, 2004

 

The possibility of a shift in Israel

Yesterday I tried to get my head around the current Israeli political scene, with the possibility of shifting alliances to form a unity government, or the possibility of early elections. In today's Guardian, Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, who teaches Israeli politics at Oxford University, was able to break it down quite a bit more coherently than I did. In essence, Ottolenghi concludes that the opposition within Likud to Sharon's disengagement plan and to his inclusion of Labor in a unity government may end up coming back around to bite them in the ass. The major reason to believe this is that the majority of Israelis support Sharon and his Gaza withdrawal plan. Those Likudniks who are unwilling to compromise are on the losing end of this battle. If they force the issue they may end up empowering Labor (which, after the last election, looked as if it might be gone for good). My inclination to agree with this analysis is a bit of wishful thinking, but Ottolenghi backs it up with historical precedent, which is even more encouraging.
In 1998, Israel's nationalist right punished Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's double "sin" of withdrawing from most of the West Bank town of Hebron and signing the Wye River agreements with Yasser Arafat by toppling him - only to get a Labour government. Today's rebels face a similar choice: neutralising Sharon's plan will only bring Israel's defeated left back to power. Theirs is the fate of ideologues: they might rule the central committee, but they have lost the people. Sharon knows that. That's why his defeat is only temporary.
While I am beyond unexcited to hear that Sharon's defeat may only be temporary (as I'd like to see him gone for good), I would very much like to see the rise of some kind of moderating power. My fingers are crossed and, as always, I'll believe it when I see it.

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