Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Disrupting the Israeli Civil Agenda

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Middle East On Target analyst Yisrael Ne'eman has written an intelligent piece on Israel's coalition negotiations. It is reprinted with permission.

Disrupting the Civil Agenda
By Yisrael Ne'eman

The most pressing issues in Israel today are domestic as evidenced by the March 28 election results. Over one third of the populace did not vote, citing corruption, self-interest and the general feeling that the politicians do not give a damn about them. The pensioners list got an unheard of protest vote of 7 seats, a clear demand that help be on the way to "someone" who is in dire need and in this case it was in the image of one's grandparents.

In coalition building the biggest battles between Acting PM Ehud Olmert and Labor Party leader Amir Peretz are over the finance and education ministries. Previously everyone would kill to get the defense ministry which Peretz has been offered but is very reluctant to accept. The shift to a domestic agenda as initiated by Ariel Sharon after the 2003 elections through state infrastructure development and economic growth initiatives is sinking in.

Olmert’s victory speech revolved around the ideas expressed in his "Consolidation" policy which is just another word for Sharon’s "Disengagement." Olmert is emphasizing the need for a withdrawal from the heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank and the unilateral determination of Israel's future boundaries in the face of the inability to negotiate with the Hamas or PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The former rejects Israel's right to exist and the latter cannot implement any negotiated accord. The idea is to put the Palestinians on the other side of the fence and get on with nation building. Palestinian issues are to be peripheralized, compartmentalized and "out of sight, out of mind." The thrust is towards national reinvestment in infrastructure, jobs (including raising the minimum wage) and education thereby leading to a stronger economy and a strengthened social cohesion.

Sharon's Disengagement was the beginning of the process and now it is Olmert's Consolidation, even if his potential right wing and religious coalition partners will not allow him to use the term in the future. The army, police, defense and internal security ministries are facing the test of reality as the Palestinians have no intention of cooperating with Israeli unilateralism and the resulting Jewish State development. Their job is to get the Palestinian issue off the front pages of the press and out of the media as much as possible. To succeed they will need to pre-empt Palestinian terror and rocket initiatives otherwise domestic issues will once again take a back seat to foreign policy and defense.

Due to continued Kassam rocket fire at Israeli towns and agricultural villages Israel has fired more than 400 artillery shells into the northern Gaza Strip launch zones just during the past day. In the last week several Palestinian terrorists were killed alongside civilian casualties as rockets were fired from residential areas (or close by) and Israeli artillery responded. Fueling the flames and making matters worse is the non-border between Gaza and Egypt. Weapons and terrorists flow freely as Egypt is once again an accomplice to Palestinian terror. Gaza anarchy is as bad, if not worse now that the Hamas is in control. Although their own operatives exercise restraint, the Fatah Al-Aksa Brigades and the Islamic Jihad are initiating the attacks in a challenge to PM Ismail Haniya's government.

The security forces need to contain the Palestinian violence to enable the declared domestic agenda to finally take root. If not, we can envision a return to 2000-04 when terrorism and Palestinian issues of all types dominated everyday Israeli thinking, behavior and the national agenda. Olmert and Peretz (and Leiberman?) beware.

Related articles:
Israel moves to the Center
Media Bias on Israel
What is Important When Considerin Action

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