02 June 2015

Meet the New Israeli Government

After lurching to the right to “win” the parliamentary election in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu has assembled the fruits of his victory: a new government with the smallest possible majority in Knesset (61 out of 120 seats). Just under half of the new government consists of Netanyahu’s right wing Likud party (30 seats).  The remainder is made up of the vaguely centrist Kulanu party and three fanatical or religious hard right parties (Jewish HomeShas  and United Torah , together with a hydra of competing domestic agendas that are shaping the competition to control the various ministries.  While the members of this coalition are loosely united on  the Palestinian Question (no 2-state solution), the incompatible domestic agendas are a prescription for paralysis, because a threat by even the smallest party to leave the coalition becomes a threat to the government’s existence.

This commentary by veteran Middle East reporter Jonathan Cooke’s paints a collective portrait of the kind of people who are winning the competition of power in Israel’s latest and greatest kludge of a government:  
  • Tzipi Hotovely: Shares oversight of Foreign Ministry - “The basic truth” … [is] … “All the  land is ours.”
  • Dore Gold: Shares oversight of Foreign Ministry - Deeply opposed to Palestinian statehood, close confidant of Netanyahu.
  • Moshe Yaalon: Defense Minister - planned to create separate buses for Jewish settlers and Palestinians (cancelled by Netanyahu); also suggested Israel should follow US example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuke Iran.
  • Sivan Shalom: Minister in charge of talks with Palestinians -- Publicly rejects 2-state solution and advocates aggressive settlement building
  • Eli Ben Dahan: Deputy Defense Minister - leading settler rabbi who has referred to Palestinians as being “sub-human.”
  • Ayelet Shked: Oversees justice system — spoke in genocidal terms against Palestinians in Gaza las summer.
Unlike Netanyahu's previous right wing governments, Cooke notes, the current one has no cosmetic moderate to soften the international image of Israel. 
Cook predicts that President Obama’s policy for dealing with Israel’s lurch to the right — i.e. to orally signal disquiet, while showering Israel with weapons, aid, and political cover in international fora — will continue with the new government.
The good news is that it is hard to imagine the new Israeli government lasting very long.  The bad news is that the new government reflects the deep seated nature of Israel’s lurch to the right, particularly with respect to the Palestinian Question.  Should it fall, the successor government, perhaps with a larger majority packaged as a government of national salvation, may be even more fanatical and self-righteous on the Palestinian Question than this one.  
Moreover, such a development would probably enjoy continued encouragement by the United States, because effete as it is, Obama's Israeli policy will be viewed as being too hard on Israel by all of the leading candidates for President of both parties during the run up to the US election in 2016.

Why Israel’s cabinet will be a headache for the US
Jonathan Cook, The National (UAE), May 28, 2015 
Only a few weeks into Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, the intense strain of trying to square its members’ zealotry with Israel’s need to improve its international standing is already starkly evident.
The conundrum was laid out clearly by Tzipi Hotovely, a young political ally of Mr Netanyahu’s recently appointed to oversee the foreign ministry on his behalf.
She called together the country’s chief diplomats last week to cite rabbinical justifications for taking Palestinian land. Her broader message was that Israeli embassies abroad needed to stop worrying about being “smart” and concentrate instead on being “right”.
Urging the country’s envoys into a headlong confrontation with the world community, she told them the “basic truth” was: “All the land is ours. ... continued