Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

Commentary Last Updated: Dec 9th, 2008 - 01:35:48

It�s the Arabs, stupid
By Andrew E. Mathis
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 9, 2008, 00:28

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

Israel�s daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published a poll Thursday showing the Likud, headed by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with 32 seats (out of a total of 120) and the currently ruling Kadima party taking 26 seats. The once all-power Labor party polled a mere 8 seats.

More interesting than these numbers, however, is the assertion in another poll conducted by the War and Peace Index that found a plurality of Israelis questioned believed the chances of peace were best with Netanyahu back at the helm.

Netanyahu for peace? That�s like Klan members for Obama. What�s going on in the Israeli collective mind?

Lest we think the Israelis are no longer interested in peace, the same poll that found Netanyahu most likely to bring peace found a majority of Israeli Jews still support the idea of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution generally. Meanwhile, the Likud Party platform clearly states that it will refuse to recognize a Palestinian state and that, furthermore, only autonomy would be afforded the Palestinians by them. This is clearly a recipe for further disaster. So what is driving this push for Netanyahu?

Part of it is happening here, not surprisingly. Last week, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, a Democrat, claimed that President-elect Obama would have a good working relationship with Netanyahu. Given the record that Netanyahu had of �working� with President Clinton (Clinton got two very small agreements out of Netanyahu only after much disagreement between the two men), it�s highly doubtful that an Obama-Netanyahu relationship will be better � though it�s fun to say out loud.

The other factors driving Netanyahu�s numbers are the return to the Likud of several prominent members, notably Dan Meridor and Ze�ev (Benny) Begin, son of the former Prime Minister. Meridor was finance minister under Netanyahu until 1997 and then had joined the short-lived Centre Party formed from Likud and Labor members to find a �happy medium� between Netanyahu and then leader of the opposition Ehud Barak. Meridor�s inclusion on the Likud list gives the impression, as do Wexler�s remarks, that the Likud is centrist and moderate.

However, the inclusion of Begin on the list points to the real truth. Begin was a Likud member from 1988 to 1997, when he left the Likud to form the Herut party that is currently headed by Michael Kleiner, a champion of the continued practice of settlement in the Palestinian Territories and an opponent to any accommodation with the Palestinians. Begin shares those points of view (he left the Likud over Netanyahu agreeing to evacuate the IDF from Hebron).

Netanyahu�s courting of Begin is proof of where Netanyahu truly stands. So how can he be stopped before the elections on February 10? Netanyahu�s 32 seats would be augmented by nine seats from the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party and six from the even further right-wing Jewish Home party, giving him 47 seats. With the religious parties (Shas has 11 seats and United Torah Judaism has seven seats), he would have a 61-seat majority with four seats to spare. But he would have to make broad concessions to Shas, which always demands special considerations for its pet issues (religious education, greater enforcement of Jewish law, etc.). Such a majority would likely be short-lived, but it could do great damage in the meantime.

The strongest challenger to Netanyahu is current acting Prime Minister Tzipi Livni of Kadima. As noted, she has 26 seats in the latest polls. Giving her Labor�s eightseats, Meretz�s seven seats (Meretz are the social democrats), and the burgeoning Green Party�s three seats, she would have 44 seats, three fewer than Netanyahu would have before needing to approach the religious parties.

Livni failed to form a government in the fall by failing to successfully court Shas. And, in the minds of the Israeli left, Shas is best left out of any government because of its unreasonable demands. So to whom could Livni go to best Netanyahu?

The first choice for her would be United Torah Judaism, with their seven seats. And, while UTJ does have demands that are similar to Shas, the parties that make it up have traditionally supported most governments since their philosophy is best described as �non-Zionist.� Promise that the IDF won�t draft their yeshiva bochers, and Livni�s got 51 seats. She still needs 10 more seats for a majority.

The Arab parties would give her the edge. They have 11 seats in this poll, giving her 62 seats. Before the 1967 war, Arab parties were routinely part of governments, either officially or on a non-official basis. The key point for Livni to consider is this: By approaching the Arabs for their support, she has absolutely nothing to lose. Perhaps some racist members of Labor and Kadima would protest the move, but these same people would be looking to keep their current government jobs.

Israeli Arabs were the key voters in the 1999 election of Ehud Barak as prime minister, turning out in record numbers to cast a ballot for the man they believed would finally bring them equality and justice for their brothers in the Territories. That he failed to fulfill his promises to them caused them to cast blank ballots in the 2001 election against Ariel Sharon. Give the Israeli Arabs a sense of a real voice, and they will vote. And they�re not going to vote for Netanyahu, quite obviously.

So you want to keep the peace process going, Ms. Livni? It�s the Arabs, stupid.

Andrew E. Mathis is a medical editor, Holocaust historian, and adjunct professor of English and humanities at Villanova University.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Olmert: Shame sans substance
Imperialists just don�t let you be
Zeitgeist: The withering away of Europe�s anti-war spirit
Obama conspiracy
It�s the Arabs, stupid
Human Rights Day celebration in Gaza
Rogue Bush regime: US government is above the law
Bag the Fed!
Washington�s arrogance has fomented a Muslim revolution
The mythology of the �War on Terrorism�
Obama�s familiar orbit
Torturous ambiguity
Woody Guthrie: A little recession music, please
Making smarter cars instead of stupid decisions
Vote first; ask questions later
Cassandra complex
Obama exploits liberal denial
Livni states that the targets in Mumbai were Jewish and Israeli (another codeword for �Western�?)
Gaza: Salvation in a news broadcast
The tragic devastation of Iraq, a critical moral issue for America