Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Israeli politics

Well bugger me sideways. The Middle East quartet for doing anything the US says is considering withdrawing from the Roadmap for Peace. They're questioning whether there's any point doing mediation with the new Israeli government heading towards more unilateral moves. Sounds like another 'let's let Israel do whatever the hell it wants' move.

Much has been said by many in the last year or so about Israel's supposed move towards the left. While Sharon's (and now Olmert's) government has shown some willingness to confront settlers, this does not in itself consititute such a move, in my opinion anyway.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding by many non-Israelis about the nature of Israeli politics: the traditional 'left' in Israel has consisted of those more willing to negotiate a future peace with Palestinians, whereas the 'right' has always advocated unilateral moves. The usual (read: non-Israeli) left/right division is economic. While there is some of that in Israeli politics, the party-political divisions are simply not based around it.

Let me illustrate: Meretz, the party traditionally seen as the furthest-left Zionist party, is economically neo-liberal, in many ways to the economic right of the 'center-left' Labor party. Labor, on the other hand, is politically unilateral, but economically/socially to the left of anyone except the non-Zionist Arab/Israeli parties - Hadash and Balad - though the gap between Labor and those two is huge. Likud, to put things in perspective, is economically neo-conservative.

Looking at the composition of the new government, consisting of Kadima, Labor, the Pensioners and Shas, the overall trend is clearly towards right-wing unilateralism. Not one of those parties is seriously considering anything like negotiations and Olmert's new 'consolidation' program aims to steal as much Palestinian land as the international community will allow. If the Quartet's recent statements are anything to go by, that will be whatever Olmert feels like.

Socially, the new government's policies remain to be seen. Amir Peretz's appointment to Security Minister may move funds from 'security' to education and welfare. Personally, I suspect that he will be blocked by army figures, who have always been extremely powerful in the Israeli political system. There will be pressure on Avraham Hirchson (Kadima), new minister of finance, to keep the money flowing to the army and associated industries. He is far more likely to give in to such pressure than to the demands of Peretz. To be honest, I think Peretz will be a disappointment to those in Israel who saw his election to the premiership of the Labor party as heralding a new 'social era' in Israeli politics.

Much has also been said about Yuli Tamir, the new (Labor) education minister. Granted, no one could be worse than the previous holder of the post, Limor Livnat, who refused on multiple occasions to even talk to teachers. Tamir is certainly far to the (social) left of Livnat and is an advocate of Peretz's socially-oriented agenda. I'm sure that my uncle and aunt, being teachers themselves, are very much relieved at her appointment. However, I read an op-ed by her in Ha'aretz the other day (will post when I find an English version), advocating what seems to be a first-term-Blairite meritocratic legistlative process. While there is something to be said for legislation drafted by 'experts', there is a real and present danger in it: democracy is not the rule of experts, it is the rule of the people, ignorant or otherwise.

Random things:
  • For anyone who doesn't know Tom Segev (that is, anyone outside Israel and academic Middle-East experts), read the man, often. He's one of Israel's most sober and well-spoken historians and political commentators. His writing is both flowing and factual, and his knowledge of Israeli history and politics is nearly unmatched.
  • Richard Boucher should fuck off and stay the hell away from Nepal. He is there to represent American pro-monarchy interest. Once again, the US isn't happy with actual democracy. Over and over again, real democracy brings those the US brands as 'terrorists' closer to power. This time its the Nepalese Maoists. Sorry guys, but you can't have it both ways: if you're going to promote democracy, accept its consequences, from Palestine to Nepal.
  • Adam Keller translated an awesome article about a few of my friends from the Israeli anarchist movement. The article originally appeared in Yediot Ahronot, certainly not a left-wing paper. Occasionally, Israeli papers come up with surprisingly good articles on the real Israeli left. How nice :).
  • I'm going to be back at Common Ground next week, for another short week. Yay for being in New Orleans!
Update: James Wolfson, outgoing quartet envoy says cutting aid to Palestinians will destabilize the region.

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