May 15th 2015

A Government Neither By Nor For The People

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 Israeli public, however, must face the reality of the occupation and its devastating repercussions. No sane Israeli should believe that time is in Israel’s favor."

The political horse-trading in Israel seen over the past eight weeks, which went down to the wire to form a new government, was, in the main, a struggle over who would get what position, regardless of their qualifications and irrespective of what is best for the country.

Given that the new government is composed entirely of right-wing and religious political parties, it will be impossible to resume the peace negotiations in earnest, which of necessity requires significant concessions to which Prime Minister Netanyahu and his coalition partners, especially the Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, sternly object.

The makeup of the new coalition gives the Palestinian Authority (PA) no reason to believe that Netanyahu will advance the peace process; in fact, it will further stifle any efforts to revive the negotiations. Moreover, the Obama administration has basically given up on its efforts to resume such talks as it sees no prospect for any breakthrough.

The new government will now further push the Palestinians to “briskly peruse its activity on the international stage…and [draft] new proposed resolutions for the UN Security Council” in order to seek recognition of the Palestinian state and sue Israel at the International Criminal Court to bar the expansion of the settlements, while charging some of Israel’s political leaders with war crimes.

In addition, the government creates a precarious environment far more conducive to renewed violence with the Palestinians, as neither the PA nor the Palestinian public have much hope left that the prospect for peace remains viable. The Israelis should keep in mind what JFK once articulated, that “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

To be sure, the new Netanyahu-led government was created to serve its own political agenda, which is far removed from Israel’s national interests. Indeed, in Israel the politician’s personal interest comes first, the interest of the political party comes second, favoritism comes third, and the country can wait.

Although Bennett’s Jewish Home lost four seats from the previous election, he used his position as king-maker (without his party, Netanyahu could not have formed the new government) to extort from Netanyahu the coveted Justice Ministry, as well as Agriculture and Education. Netanyahu conceded to all of Bennett’s demands out of sheer desperation to stay in power.

Is there anything more absurd than appointing Ayelet Shaked as Justice Minister and a member of the security cabinet? This is the same bloodthirsty Shaked who called for the annihilation of every Palestinian man, woman, and child.

This is a call for genocide that Netanyahu has been shamefully silent about, while willfully ignoring the message that her appointment sends to the international community.

Furthermore, Netanyahu submitted a bill to the Knesset to allow him to appoint more than 18 ministers (which is the limit mandated by law) to create more ministerial positions to satisfy several power-hungry Likud members at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to taxpayers.

Netanyahu’s hypocrisy seems to be limitless; he is now trying to lure Isaac Herzog, of the opposition Zionist Union, to join the government only to put a moderate face on the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

Although in Israel politics and policies rest with the personal ambitions of those who are in power (or aspire to be), Herzog may prove to be the one leader who puts the nation’s interests first. He may well stick to his position and refuse to join a government that provides Netanyahu with the political shield he needs and be party to the destruction of the peace process altogether.

At no time in its history has Israel been more in need of strong, visionary, and courageous leadership than today. What the Israeli public has ended up with, however, is a government that offers nothing but more insecurity, uncertainty, greater prospects for violent conflicts, and a bleak future.

The half-consolation is that this new government has a razor-thin majority in the Knesset and is not likely to last the full four-year term.

Fearing the loss of some public support, however, any political party that hopes to receive a relative majority of votes shies away from making peace with the Palestinians the centerpiece of its platform and committing to reaching a peace agreement.

The Israeli public, however, must face the reality of the occupation and its devastating repercussions. No sane Israeli should believe that time is in Israel’s favor. Any newly-elected leader must have a clear vision of where Israel will be 10 or 15 years down the line; only on that basis will he or she develop a strategy that would realize that vision.

Certainly there are issues and developments beyond the control of any Israeli leader. Whether or not the Palestinians are willing or capable of meeting Israel halfway, or even if they still seek Israel’s destruction, Israel – and only Israel – has the power to determine its own destiny.

Israel has the military power, logistical and technical capabilities, and financial means to take unilateral action, if it must, by systematically withdrawing from Palestinian territories. There will be no Palestinian leader who will object to any partial territorial withdrawal and refuse to cooperate with Israel on all security matters.

Even under the current circumstances, there is full security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This level of cooperation can only increase if more territory is evacuated and settlements activity is suspended while the negotiations are in process.

Given the composition of the government, the Israeli public should wake up and realize how corrupt the Netanyahu government is and how he and his gang are undermining Israel’s very existence by clinging to a dogmatic ideological/religious belief that they can have it all.

The time is overdue for the rise of new leadership that pursues peace with vigor, seeks social justice and equality, and lives up to the promise behind Israel’s creation: as a proud, just, and progressive Jewish state at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

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."