May 15th 2012

Netanyahu Creates a Big New Government to Do Nothing but Survive

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

Benjamin Netanyahu, ever the master maneuverer, has done it again. Just moments before the Israeli Parliament was to ratify the call for new elections, the Kadima Party announced that it had completed negotiations with the Prime Minister and would join the government producing Israel's largest governing coalition in history (including 94 of 120 Members of the Knesset). The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the region and here in the US. Speculation was rife about what this sudden move might mean.

In the days that followed, it was fascinating to read the views of Arab, Israeli, and American commentators as they attempted to understand this Israeli development. Many Arab commentators predictably and definitively saw this new Israeli "unity" as a danger, a harbinger of a new regional war. And they didn't mince words. Seeing a precedent in the Israeli coalition government that was formed in the lead-up to the '67 War, one Arab analyst wrote "this is a war coalition" claiming that the target would be Iran or Lebanon.

The U.S. press, equally delusional when it comes to all things Israel, largely saw this broader Israeli government as a positive development, with liberals moralizing that with this expanded mandate Netanyahu should now be in a position to move confidently to a peace settlement with the Palestinians, saying that "under Netanyahu, Israel is stronger than ever.”

This echoed the somewhat subtle chiding of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who reportedly suggested that the Israel Prime Minister could no longer claim that he would lose his governing coalition should he make peace. He was now in a political position which gave him the space to at least help strengthen the Palestinian Authority.

American neo-conservatives, on the other hand, shared the Arab take on the Netanyahu move, but with a twist. While Arab writers dreaded the war they feared might result from this expanded governing coalition, U.S. hawks appear to eagerly anticipate it.

Most interesting and sanguine were the Israeli commentators who saw in the maneuvering of both Netanyahu and his new "partner,” Shaul Mofaz, signs of weakness, not strength. This led many Israeli writers to conclude that far from setting the stage for decisive action, this new government was doomed to paralysis.

Netanyahu is facing two immediate internal challenges that were threatening his rightist coalition. Within a few weeks the government must act on two separate court decisions, one which found unconstitutional the law that exempted the ultra-Orthodox from military service, and the other which gave the government until the beginning July to evacuate an illegal settlement built on Palestinian-owned land north of Ramallah. Implementing either one or both would cause a political rupture, causing some members of Netanyahu's coalition to bolt. Meanwhile, the third largest grouping in his government, the Russian immigrant-based nationalist party headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has threatened to leave should the government fail implement the change in the law on military service. All of which put Netanyahu in a bind.

By broadening the base of his coalition, Netanyahu has now removed the leverage of these groups to withdraw their support—since they no longer have the ability to collapse the government. His motivation, it appears, was more survival than action, or as one writer termed it "nothing more than an attempt to prolong his own political life.” He is, said another, "a coward who is afraid of elections, afraid of the settlers, and afraid of the ultra-Orthodox.” So rather than lead by taking decisive action, he accepted the life-line offered by Mofaz and can now continue to govern by playing one group against another.

The leader of the Kadima group similarly appeared to be motivated by crass political survival. Since winning the contest to lead the party founded less than a decade ago by the personal aspirations and "charisma" of Ariel Sharon, Shaul Mofaz has seen his fortunes dramatically fade. Most recent polls show that in new elections Kadima would win a mere 10 seats in the next Knesset, down from the party's current 28. Entering into a coalition with the man he recently called a "liar,” appeared a safer bet than facing humiliation at the polls. One analyst termed the move "a cynical attempt to extend the life of a spineless party.”

Secretary Clinton is right. The game is up. Netanyahu can no longer use the lame excuse he has relied on for years. He has, if he wishes, the numbers within and still outside of his coalition to make peace. But sadly, the Israeli pundits who know him best also have it right, he is a maneuverer who uses his wiles to promote paralysis in order to avoid peace at all cost. The best evidence is that his response to the court decision to evacuate the illegal settlement is to propose new legislation to "legalize" what is illegal. So do not hold your breath expecting big things, either bad or good, from this big new government. That was not what brought it into being. Expect, instead, business as usual.

And so after all the drama of the past week and the nervous speculation or excited expectation (depending on the lens through which you viewed the events that unfolded) little has changed for better or worse. As my friend MJ Rosenberg wrote. it was all "much ado about nothing.” 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."