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A government neither by nor for the people

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Monday, 18 May 2015


The political horse-trading in Israel seen over the past eight weeks, which went down to the wire to form a new government, was, in the main, a struggle over who would get what position, regardless of their qualifications and irrespective of what is best for the country.

Given that the new government is composed entirely of right-wing and religious political parties, it will be impossible to resume the peace negotiations in earnest, which of necessity requires significant concessions to which Prime Minister Netanyahu and his coalition partners, especially the Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, sternly object.

The makeup of the new coalition gives the Palestinian Authority (PA) no reason to believe that Netanyahu will advance the peace process; in fact, it will further stifle any efforts to revive the negotiations. Moreover, the Obama administration has basically given up on its efforts to resume such talks as it sees no prospect for any breakthrough.

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The new government will now further push the Palestinians to "briskly peruse its activity on the international stage…and [draft] new proposed resolutions for the UN Security Council" in order to seek recognition of the Palestinian state and sue Israel at the International Criminal Court to bar the expansion of the settlements, while charging some of Israel's political leaders with war crimes.

In addition, the government creates a precarious environment far more conducive to renewed violence with the Palestinians, as neither the PA nor the Palestinian public have much hope left that the prospect for peace remains viable. The Israelis should keep in mind what JFK once articulated, that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

To be sure, the new Netanyahu-led government was created to serve its own political agenda, which is far removed from Israel's national interests. Indeed, in Israel the politician's personal interest comes first, the interest of the political party comes second, favoritism comes third, and the country can wait.

Although Bennett's Jewish Home lost four seats from the previous election, he used his position as king-maker (without his party, Netanyahu could not have formed the new government) to extort from Netanyahu the coveted Justice Ministry, as well as Agriculture and Education. Netanyahu conceded to all of Bennett's demands out of sheer desperation to stay in power.

Is there anything more absurd than appointing Ayelet Shaked as Justice Minister and a member of the security cabinet? This is the same bloodthirsty Shaked who called for the annihilation of every Palestinian man, woman, and child.

This is a call for genocide that Netanyahu has been shamefully silent about, while willfully ignoring the message that her appointment sends to the international community.

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Furthermore, Netanyahu submitted a bill to the Knesset to allow him to appoint more than 18 ministers (which is the limit mandated by law) to create more ministerial positions to satisfy several power-hungry Likud members at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to taxpayers.

Netanyahu's hypocrisy seem to be limitless; he is now trying to lure Isaac Herzog, of the opposition Zionist Union, to join the government only to put a moderate face on the most right-wing government in Israel's history.

Although in Israel politics and policies rest with the personal ambitions of those who are in power (or aspire to be), Herzog may prove to be the one leader who puts the nation's interests first. He may well stick to his position and refuse to join a government that provides Netanyahu with the political shield he needs and be party to the destruction of the peace process altogether.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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