The myth of good Israel vs. bad Israel (II)

Posted: January 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Where was “the peace camp” when the Knesset decided to probe human rights NGOs?

As the Knesset is passing one undemocratic law after the other, many people ask themselves where is the famous Israeli Left. I have long argued that supporting the two-states solution (as many Israelis say they do) doesn’t necessarily relate to support of human rights, freedom, equality before the law and other democratic values. Only a small minority in Israel is still fighting for those issues.

Outsiders, especially from the Jewish-Liberal camp, tend to exaggerate the role the left plays in Israeli politics, and to downplay the racist and anti-democratic tendencies in the Israeli center. I guess it makes it easier for them to continue seeing in Israel the model Jewish democracy they dream of. But the truth is that until now, Labor and Kadima members didn’t try to stand up to the torrent of laws and racist moves initiated by the extreme right. At best, they gave some fable remarks to the media or issued condemnation, but they failed to engage in meaningful political action, probably because they felt that their public never demanded it.

Last week, the Israeli Knesset decided – in an overwhelming majority and with the support of Netanyahu and his government – to initiate an investigation of the funding and activities of human rights organizations (or as Roi Maor rightly called it, Knesset Committee on un-Israeli activities).

In the days leading to the Knesset debate on this issue, there was a considerable media build-up. Writers and pundits warned of the damaging effect this decision might have on the Israeli democracy. Yet when the vote came, most Kadima and Labor members failed to show up.

The following members of Knesset – all of them considered among Israel’s “pragmatists” – where among those who had other issues to attend to during what could turn out to be one of the most crucial moments in the history of the Israeli parliament:

Labor: Ehud Barak, Daniel Ben-Simon, Avishay Braverman, Amir Peretz, Eithan Cabel, Einat Wilf, Matan Vilnai, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Orit Noked. Kadima: Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Shay Hermesh, Dalia Itzik, Ze’ev Bielski, Avi Dichter, And that’s just a partial list.

Many of these Knesset Members had official reasons for their absence, but as we all know, they would have showed up if they felt strongly enough about this issue. Politicians don’t miss political events which are important for their constituency. To Livni’s credit, she issued yesterday an explanation for her absence from the vote. She also declared that Kadima would try to challenge the decision in future votes, and still, from the leader of the opposition and the so called “peace camp”, we can expect more, much more.

No Partner

Posted: October 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, The Left, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

MK Daniel Ben Simon, who resigned yesterday from his post as Labor’s whip, explains his decision in an article for Haaretz [Hebrew]. This is a must-read for those who still think that Israel is pursuing peace. Ben Simon is not some ultra-Lefty, but rather a moderate rookie MK, who supported Barak’s decision to enter the Netanyahu government after the general elections. it took him only eight months to understand what’s going on.

Ben Simon describes his useless attempts to convince Defense Minister and head of Labor Ehud Barak to respond to Obama’s peace initiative:

“Look, Ehud, there is no peace process, there are no negotiations, there’s no settlement freeze or outpost evacuation. We haven’t done anything we promised the public,” I told him. “What will we tell the Israeli public?”

To my astonishment, he said we have no partner, that there’s no one to talk to. I remembered that nearly a decade before, when we heard similar lines from Barak, they sank the country into despair and brought a series of misfortunes in their wake.

Is it possible Ehud Barak hasn’t changed? Is Ehud model 2009 really the same as model 2001? Read the rest of this entry »

A bad week for Ehud Barak is a good week for the peace process

Posted: October 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

MK Daniel Ben Simon’s political career suffered from bad luck from the start: after joining the wrong party (Labor) at the wrong time (on the verge of its worst defeat ever), he set his “major press conference” for noon today – at the exact moment when the first report on the suicide of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s legendary manager, Moni Fanan, arrived. Ben-Simon, a journalist for Haaretz until a year ago, probably understood immediately that his “dramatic decision” to resign from the post of Labor’s whip won’t get much attention, but still, he went through with it. What else could he do?

But in a year or two or three, people might say that this was the beginning of the end for Netanyahu.

The weakest link in the government, the Labor party, is about to fall apart. The party is practically split into three already: four out of its 13 MKs didn’t join the coalition and are waiting for a fifth member, which would allow them to officially split and form a new party; another three (Herzog, Braverman and Ben Simon) are in opposition to Barak but don’t want to split the party just yet; and four are still loyal to the coalition, but are gradually beginning to get nervous. The 13th member is MK Shely Yechimovitz, which has her own agenda, and is loyal only to the union strongman, Ofer Eini.

Complicated? That’s the way things have been in the Labor since the dawn of Zionism. It is enough to say that Barak is feeling the heat, especially after all the humiliation he suffered last week regarding his enormous expense bill in Paris.

So, what’s next? When right wing leaders are in troubles, they demand to bomb Gaza; Leftists usually talk about the peace process and the settlements (and then bomb Gaza). Barak and Netanyahu are perfectly coordinated, so my guess is that we will soon see Israel agreeing to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, maybe even accepting some sort of deal on the settlements, and evacuation an outpost or two. Will it change anything for real? Not in the near future. Netanyahu has pushed the Palestinians into the corner, Obama is busy with the health Care battle, and all the momentum from last spring was lost. As Ben Simon learned again today, it’s all about timing.