Friday, February 13, 2009

Israel: Rise of the Right

by Phyllis Bennis

"The timing of the December-January Israeli assault on Gaza had everything to do with the Israeli elections (well, almost everything - there was that little item of finishing the military attack before Barack Obama's inauguration.).

But now the elections are over. And while final tallies aren't officially finished, a few things are already clear. The two top mainstream parties, popularly known as "right" and "center," placed virtually neck-and-neck. Tzipi Livni's ostensibly centrist Kadima Party ended up in first place, one seat ahead of the officially rightist Likud bloc of Bibi Netanyahu.

Far more significant - for Israelis, Palestinians, and U.S.-Israeli relations - was Israeli voters' choice for third place in the Knesset (Israel's parliament) lineup.

The great victor in the election is neither Netanyahu nor Livni but, rather, Avigdor Lieberman. His racist, indeed fascist, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Is Our Home) party took third place, leaving the traditionally powerful Labor Party of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak struggling for fourth......

But from the vantage point of justice rather than diplomatic convenience, a return of Netanyahu as prime minister, even with a visible role for Lieberman, may not be such a bad option. Netanyahu's abrasive Likud rhetoric is far more honest in depicting actual Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. The carefully anodyne words of Livni to her pal Condoleezza Rice, the myth of Ehud Barak's "generous offer" to the Palestinians at Camp David: These never reflected reality on the ground. There, settlement expansion in the West Bank, isolation and impoverishment for Gaza, a policy of Judaization of Arab Jerusalem, and discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel remained - and remains - unchanged despite Israeli (and American) political shifts........"

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