Tuesday, March 28, 2006
The results of the elections haven't led me the change any of my earlier observations/predictions . But here three ideas to chew on:
1. All of Israel's PMs were part of the country's national security establishment. They were either ex-military generals, like Rabin or Barak or were involved in one way or another in defense issues, like Peres, Begin or Meir. Olmert is the first "civilian," a lawyer-businessman by profession to become a PM. This I think is going to have a major impact on the way Israel's national security/foreign policy is going to be managed. In a way, this will be the first Israeli PM who whose view of the Arabs hasn't been shaped by looking through the barrel of gun.
2. The elections have revived an ethnic split in Israeli politics which will now formalized along party lines. Hence the Labor party has now become the political home of Israel's low-middle class and poor "Mizrahim" (Middle Eastern Jews)who reside in Israel's under-developmed "development towns" while Shas will continue to play that role by representing the more religious elements in that community. Kadima is dominated by members of Israel's Ashkenazi (European) elites who "emigrated" from both Labor and Likud. Avigdor Lieberman's (seen above) Israel Beitenu which has turned to be the Big Story of the elections is now identified as the "Russian" party, represnted and being led by Russian immigrants. It's ideology can be described conservative/nationalist (in a European sense close to Le Pen) and unlike Netanyahu's Likud it is less committed to free market principles.
3. If you add (1) and (2) and assuming that Labor, Shas and Israel Beitenu will probably join a Kadima-led coalition, I think that the next government will adopt a very flexible/pragmatic/cautious approach on the Israel/Palestine issue and I don't expect any dramatic moves in the next few months in terms of either a major withdrawal from the territories or an adoption of a very tough line towards the Palestinians. The emphasis will be on trying to coordinate policies with the Americans and improving relationship with the EU. An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear reactor will take place only if and when Washington will give Israel a "green light" to do that. At the same time, the government will be under enormous pressure from Labor, Israel Beitenu and Shas to slow down the free market/privatization moves promoted by Netanyahu and to adopt a more of a "social agenda." But the business community that backs Kadima will try to neutralize that pressure. In general, as I pointed in earlier posts and analysis I don't expect a serious move towards a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace and believe that what will emerge eventually (best-case-sceario) will be a interim agreement that could lead to a Cyprus-style arrangement of separation between the two communities without resolving core existential issues (Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem; large Jewish settlements). But... unforeseen BIG events; for example, a Mega terrorist attack a la 9/11 in Tel Aviv or the blowing up of the holy Moslem sites in Jerusalem could result in an explosive situation that will probably draw-in international intervention and force a Dayton-like agreement on both sides.
I also saw over the weekend Joyeux Noel very moving anti-war French movie, directed by Christian Carion, which was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. It depicts a true incident from Christmas, 1914, in which three armies -- British (Scots), French and Germans -- declared an unofficial armistice for a few days over the holiday season. They drank, shared food, buried their dead, talked, sang and exchanged addresses (Their governments later declared it an act of treason). In a way, it's more than just an anti-war movie. It's also a eulogy for the European civilization that was destroyed in the Great War and which never came back to life. It was the tragic opening of the violent and tragic twentieth century.