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19 February 2009 Edition

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INTERNATIONAL : Israeli elections & Venezuelan referendum

Israel Never Learns


WHATEVER misshapen, slapdash and probably hamstrung coalition emerges from the aftermath of Israel’s recent elections it will have to confront one harsh reality: the assault on Gaza has left Israel weaker and more isolated.
Indeed, so fundamentally have politics in the region changed, along with international attitudes, that it is now possible and no exaggeration to speak of pre and post Gaza scenarios, of political life before and after Operation Cast Lead.
Another reality that will have to be acknowledged is that the election saw Israel shift to the right, perhaps not as decisively as the polls predicted, but to the right nonetheless. Although Tzipi Livni’s Kadima was outright winner with 28 seats, this is well short of the 61 required to form a government.
Meanwhile Binyamin Netanyahu, to the right of even Ariel Sharon, took the Likud Party to within one vote of Kadima, with 27 seats, while a newly-emerged far right party, Israel Our Home, won 15 seats. However, it failed to breach the 20 seat barrier as it had confidently boasted it would.
As Israeli peace activist and former Irgun member Uri Avnery has explained, combining the assemblage of small parties on the right and far right with Likud, would produce a seat count of 65 seats. A similar count conducted on the left and including Kadima would produce just 55 seats.
So Bibi could be king again, the man who characterises Iran as a modern Nazi Germany and, in Avnery’s words, symbolises “total opposition to peace, opposition to giving back the Occupied Territories, to freezing settlement activity and to a Palestinian state.”
Or, on a more personal note, the man who was once described by a close aide to former President Bill Clinton, as “one of the most obnoxious individuals you’re going to come into – just a liar and a cheat. He could open his mouth and you could have no confidence that anything that came out of it was the truth.”
Netanyahu, surprise surprise, had poor relations with the Clinton White House and it is unlikely the Obama presidency will be whooping it up at the prospect of his elevation to senior office.
But Tzipi Livni, despite her support for a two-state solution, has been badly-damaged, regionally and internationally, by her deep involvement in Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza. Indeed, on the day the Israeli guns fell silent, Livni made a point of embellishing her warmonger reputation by telling international media that: “We’re going to keep our finger on the trigger.”

Who’s terrorising who?
It is clear that the assault on a people with nowhere to run, has left the country more isolated regionally – what Arab country could or would now dare to sit around a table with Israel?
Indeed, the assault and its conduct has seriously damaged relations between Israel and its closest regional ally, Turkey, as evidenced by the outbreak of verbal hostilities at the Davos Summit in January, which saw the Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan storm from the stage.
Turkey, which had successfully nudged Israel to the brink of open negotiations with Syria, characterised the Gaza assault as “a blow against peace.” It has since strengthened links with Hamas, offering to mediate between it and the Palestinian Authority, or Fatah.
Equally, this greater isolation will feed off the country’s greater weakness since the failure of Operation Cast Lead, which was designed to weaken Hamas militarily and politically.
Some military damage was done, but politically Hamas is stronger now for having survived. Israel has not yet learned the lessons with regard to the failed 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which conferred even greater power and status on Hizbollah.
So, in many respects, it really does not matter what coalition emerges from the electoral aftermath, because the simple issue is that Israel cannot learn from recent history.
And what currently drives all policy towards Palestine is the philosophy enunciated in 2002 by former IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Ayalon: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
It is a lesson the Palestinians have refused to be taught for 40 years. It is time Israel started to broaden its own learning horizons.  Until then, they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, over and over again.


Ban Democracy, its working!

STRANGE to listen to the furore from polite society following President Hugo Chavez’s victory in a term limit referendum, earlier this week. After all, the victory will merely allow Chavez – not guarantee him – the opportunity to emulate the electoral achievements of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher. Both of these pillars of the democratic pantheon successfully won three terms in office and Roosevelt even went on to win a fourth, but died in office.
Neither was castigated or pilloried for their dictatorial tendencies, rather their success was seen as a vindication of their respective philosophies and testament to the ‘health’ of democracy.
The problem with Hugo the Upstart is that, unlike the favoured Latin American leaders of old, he does not require death squads, secret prisons and mass graves to prop up his government. Instead, he relies on the ballot box and has won more elections than any western ‘democratic’ leader, alive or dead.
The recent referendum victory simply means he is now free to run for election in 2013, when his second term ends. He goes before the Venezuelan people and they decide. What a strange concept. They should ban it. 

An Phoblacht Magazine


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