Mar 13th 2009

The Collapse of the Coalition Negotiations between Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

"The Obama administration must remain unequivocal in its pursuit of the two-state solution" 

and

"to make it abundantly clear to Israel that settlement expansion runs contradictory to peace"                                                                                       The collapse of the coalition negotiations between Likud Leader Benjamin
Netanyahu and Kadima's Tzipi Livni over Netanyahu's refusal to commit to the
two-state solution may force him to form a narrow-based right-of-centre
government. Such a government is likely to impede any progress or end up
disintegrating under domestic and American pressure to make important
concessions for the peace process. The Obama administration must remain
unequivocal in its pursuit of the two-state solution to prevent a further
escalation of the conflict with unpredictable regional implications.

Ms. Livni was absolutely correct in turning down Netanyahu's "generous" offer to
join his government, where her party would be granted important portfolios in
the coalition but denied any sound assurance that the peace negotiations would
continue. Indeed, an Israeli government which is not committed to the two-state
solution is sewing the seeds for incessant terror and violence that will do
nothing but set the Israelis and Palestinians further apart. A narrow
centre-right government is a recipe for paralysis as most of Netanyahu's
coalition partners condition their joining the government on continuing the
expansion of settlements. Netanyahu's slogan that Israel must first obtain
security before peace is simply unrealistic, as only peace will in turn provide
Israel with the ultimate security. By pursuing this policy, Israel is
de-legitimizing its right of self-defense with its continued settlement
expansion, while Hamas is strengthening its political position as the true
defender of Palestinian rights. As a result, Israel is dangerously eroding its
moral standing and losing international sympathy as it is the Palestinians and
not the Israelis who are seen as the beleaguered people.

After Operation Cast Lead, the international community responded by sending
throngs of official delegations and visitors to Gaza. The foreign ministers of
France, Canada, Turkey, Sweden and Norway all made visits to the war torn strip,
as well as Britain's Tony Blair, Javier Solana on behalf of the EU, and John
Kerry representing the U.S. Senate. Even more telling is the 75 countries and
organizations who participated in the February donor's conference in Sharm
el-Sheikh, pledging over 5 billion in aid to rebuild Gaza. Between the state
visits, donor commitments, and media reaction after the Gaza war, the general
sympathy for the Palestinian citizens has been overwhelming, and far outnumbers
any sentiment toward the Israeli side. Hamas, while damaged, has come out of
this war claiming victory by virtue of merely surviving the Israeli onslaught
and becoming somewhat recognized as a force that must be reckoned with, either
directly or indirectly in peace negotiations.

The Obama administration ought to make it abundantly clear to Israel that
settlement expansion runs contradictory to peace, and linking the settlements to
national security is nothing but a smokescreen. Taking into full consideration
Israel's legitimate national security concerns, the Obama administration must
state firmly that America's strategic interest in the Middle East is directly
linked to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Delaying the peace
negotiations that could lead to a two-state solution is not acceptable.
Moreover, it would be impossible to effectively address Iran's nuclear program
in isolation. Only by preventing Iran from exploiting the Arab-Israeli conflict
and isolating Hamas and Hezbollah from Tehran, will progress be made on the
Israeli-Palestinian front. The recent overture to Syria by the Obama
administration is a prudent move and it must be seen as a part and parcel of the
new American strategy to deal not just with the Arab-Israeli conflict but to
contain Iran's regional maneuverability.

Concerned Israelis must ask themselves the question as to what will happen in 10
to 15 years from now if there is no solution to the conflict with the
Palestinians. The status quo is pushing both Israelis Palestinians further into
extremism and creating conditions in both camps that raise an ominous prospect
for the future. The Palestinians are growing increasingly more hopeless and as
many are left with no choice but to resort to violent resistance. More than
seven out of every 10 Palestinians has been born under occupation. They do not
dwell on who is right and who is wrong, they know only one thing: occupation in
any form is intolerable and they are bent on ending it. They watch the
usurpation of their land day in and day out while laboring under the humiliation
of occupation in every turn they make. For Israel to use Hamas and violence as
an excuse without trying to deal with the root cause will no longer resonate, as
the reaction of the international community to the Israeli onslaught in Gaza has
demonstrated. The only way the Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia can put
real pressure on Hamas and other extremist groups is if the Israeli government
suspends the expansion of settlements, dismantles all illegal outposts and
enters in earnest the peace negotiations with the objective of reaching a two
state solution.

One would hope that Mr. Netanyahu would moderate his views once he assumes the
responsibility of prime minister. Should he however form a right-of-centre
government, he may not be able to modify his position without risking its
collapse. It was during his last tenure as Prime Minister in the late nineties
that Netanyahu emphasized the three no's: no withdrawal from the Golan Heights,
no discussion of the Palestinian's claim to Jerusalem, and no negotiations while
under preconditions. The Obama administration must not let this ideology take
hold yet again, and he must have clear vision and a realistic strategy about the
peace process to push it through. This will not only bring an end to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but safeguard Israel's ultimate national security.

If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com


Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Dec 13th 2019
EXTRACT: "In previous British elections, to say that trust was the main issue would have meant simply that trust is the trump card – whichever leader or party could secure most trust would win. Now, the emerging question about trust is whether it even matters anymore."
Dec 5th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe must fend for itself for the first time since the end of World War II. Yet after so many years of strategic dependence the US, Europe is unprepared – not just materially but psychologically – for today’s harsh geopolitical realities. Nowhere is this truer than in Germany."
Nov 23rd 2019
Extdact: "The kind of gratitude expressed by Vindman and my grandfather is not something that would naturally occur to a person who can take his or her nationality for granted, or whose nationality is beyond questioning by others. Some who have never felt the sharp end of discrimination might even find it mildly offensive. Why should anyone be grateful for belonging to a particular nation? Pride, perhaps, but gratitude? In fact, patriotism based on gratitude might be the strongest form there is."
Nov 20th 2019
Extract: "Moody’s, one of the big three credit rating agencies, is not upbeat about the prospects for the world’s debt in 2020 – to put it mildly. If we were to try to capture the agency’s view of where we are heading on a palette of colours, we would be pointing at black – pitch black."
Nov 17th 2019
Extract: "Digital money is already a key battleground in finance, with technology firms, payment processing companies, and banks all vying to become the gateway into the burgeoning platform-based economy. The prizes that await the winners could be huge. In China, Alipay and WeChat Pay already control more than 90% of all mobile payments. And in the last three years, the four largest listed payment firms – Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and PayPal – have increased in value by more than the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google)."
Nov 14th 2019
Extract: "Trump, who understands almost nothing about governing, made a major mistake in attacking career public officials from the outset of his presidency. He underestimated – or just couldn’t fathom – the honor of people who could earn more in the private sector but believe in public service. And he made matters worse for himself as well as for the government by creating a shadow group – headed by the strangely out-of-control Rudy Giuliani, once a much-admired mayor of New York City, and now a freelance troublemaker serving as Trump’s personal attorney – to impose the president’s Ukraine policy over that of “the bureaucrats.” "
Nov 4th 2019
Extract: "Trump displays repeated and persistent behaviours consistent with narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. These behaviours include craving for adulation, lack of empathy, aggression and vindictiveness towards opponents, addiction to lying, and blatant disregard for rules and conventions, among others." The concern is that leaders with these two disorders may be incapable of putting the interests of the country ahead of their own personal interests. Their compulsive lying may make rational action impossible and their impulsiveness may make them incapable of the forethought and planning necessary to lead the country. They lack empathy and are often motivated by rage and revenge, and could make quick decisions that could have profoundly dangerous consequences for democracy.
Oct 31st 2019
EXTRACT: "......let’s see what happens when we have less money for all the things we want to do as a country and as individuals. Promises and predictions regarding Brexit will soon be tested against reality. When they are, I wouldn’t want to be one of Johnson’s Brexiteers."
Oct 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "Were Israel to be attacked with the same precision and sophistication as the strike on Saudi Arabia, the Middle East would be plunged into war on a scale beyond anything it has experienced so far. Sadly (but happily for Russian President Vladimir Putin), that is the reality of a world in which the US has abandoned any pretense of global leadership."
Oct 20th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe also stands to lose from Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds. If, in the ongoing chaos, the thousands of ISIS prisoners held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces escape – as some already have – America’s estranged European allies will suffer. Yet Trump is unconcerned. “Well, they are going to be escaping to Europe, that’s where they want to go,” he remarked casually at a press conference. “They want to go back to their homes." "
Oct 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Assuming the House ultimately votes to impeach Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct in office, including threats to US national security, is now truly in question."
Oct 7th 2019
EXTRACT: "The problem didn't start with the election of Donald Trump. Nor did it begin with the Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump. This is a developing crisis that has been growing like a cancer within our polity for at least the past 25 years. Its main symptoms are a lack of civility in our political discourse, a "take no prisoners" mindset, and a denial of the very legitimacy of "the other side." Trump didn't create this crisis; he was the result of it.   When Newt Gingrich took the helm of Congress in 1995, unlike previous Republican leaders, he embarked on a campaign not only to obstruct the efforts of then President Clinton, but to destroy him. Congress launched a series of investigations accusing Clinton of everything from corruption to obstruction of justice – with hints of even more nefarious plots to assassinate those who might pose a problem to his presidency.  "
Oct 4th 2019
EXTRACT: "As the story spreads, it grows darker. Meanwhile, Trump is trying to learn the identity of the whistleblower (who is protected by law), which could expose that person to great danger. And he is accusing some people – including Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee – of treason. My sense is that Trump fears the tough, focused Schiff. Trump has ominously noted that traitors used to be shot or hanged. And he hasn’t helped himself with members of either party by declaring, in one of his hundreds of febrile tweets, that forcing him from office could lead to a “civil war.” Trump has taken the United States somewhere it’s never been before. His presidency may not survive it."
Sep 24th 2019
EXTRACT: "But regardless of whether the Ukraine scandal remains front-page news, it will haunt the US intelligence community, which has been Trump’s bête noire since the day he took office. Trump has relentlessly attacked US intelligence agencies, cozied up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and divulged secrets to foreign officials, potentially burning high-value sources. This behavior had already raised serious concerns about whether Trump can be trusted to receive sensitive intelligence at all. Now, intelligence leaders must ask themselves how far they are willing to go in toeing the White House line."
Sep 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "As Lobaczewski pointed out, pathological leaders tend to attract other people with psychological disorders. At the same time, empathetic and fair-minded people gradually fall away. They are either ostracised or step aside voluntarily, appalled by the growing pathology around them.......As a result, over time pathocracies become more entrenched and extreme. You can see this process in the Nazi takeover of the German government in the 1930s, when Germany moved from democracy to pathocracy in less than two years.......In the US, there has clearly been a movement towards pathocracy under Trump. As Lobaczewski’s theory predicts, the old guard of more moderate White House officials – the “adults in the room” – has fallen away. The president is now surrounded by individuals who share his authoritarian tendencies and lack of empathy and morality. Fortunately, to some extent, the democratic institutions of the US have managed to provide some push back."
Sep 16th 2019
EXTRACT: "If the Supreme Court does agree with the Divisional Court that the question is political rather than legal, it will take the UK constitution into quite peculiar territory. Prime ministers will be the new kings and queens. They will be free to suspend parliament at will, and for as long as they wish, without any judicial interference. Parliament will meet not out of constitutional necessity but in the service of the government’s interests – namely, to pass its legislation and to maintain appearances, rather than to hold it to account."
Sep 12th 2019
Extract: "The Republican Party has lashed its fate to an increasingly unhinged leader. Though three other presidential hopefuls for 2020 now stand in Trump’s way, none can defeat him. But they can damage his reelection effort, which is why the Republican Party has been scrapping some primaries and caucuses. How well Trump does in November next year may well depend on how his fragile ego withstands the coming months."
Sep 2nd 2019
EXTRACTS: "Most people think of revolutions as sudden earthquakes or volcanic eruptions that come without warning and sweep away an entire political system. But historians, political scientists, and even the odd politician know that the reality is very different: revolutions happen when systems hollow themselves out, or simply rot from within. Revolutionaries can then brush aside established norms of behavior, or even of truth, as trivialities that should not impede the popular will............ Only time will tell whether we are currently witnessing the hollowing out of British democracy. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson may well have crossed some invisible Rubicon by.......... Whatever happens now, British parliamentary democracy may never be the same again. It will certainly never again be the model that so many people around the world once admired."
Aug 29th 2019
EXTRACT: "Events such as prorogations and dissolutions happen when countries face difficult times. Therefore, because of the disastrous effects of Brexit: sterling in freefall; a recession looming on the horizon and Britain’s international standing at its lowest ebb since Suez, it is no surprise that the country is in this position now. The worrying thing is that using the monarchical power of prorogation does not solve problems – it has a history of turning them into frightening and often violent crises. There is a worrying relationship between the use of such powers and a complete breakdown in government."
Aug 28th 2019
EXTRACT: "Reminiscent of Don Quixote, Trump is tilting at windmills. His administration is flailing at antiquated perceptions of the Old China that only compound the problems it claims to be addressing. Financial markets are starting to get a sense that something is awry. So, too, is the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the global economy is fraying at the edges. The US has never been an oasis in such treacherous periods. I doubt if this time is any different.