Israel Moves to the Right

The-greater-middle-east-brill_5502 "Livni, 50, is a relative newcomer to Israeli politics and would be the second woman to become prime minister. A lawyer in private practice and a onetime agent in Paris for Mossad, an Israeli intelligence service, she was first elected to Parliament a decade ago and held her first ministerial post under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. She has risen partly on her reputation for honesty and integrity.

She was born to a hawkish Zionist family that opposed any territorial compromise in the name of peace. But along with many members of Likud, she shifted toward the center in the past decade and ultimately helped set up Kadima in the center. She now argues fervently that Israel's future security depends on the establishment of a stable Palestinian state.

Netanyahu, 59, was prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and stayed in Likud when Sharon and others formed Kadima, although he considers himself a pragmatist and says he, too, would like to form a centrist governing coalition.

He said that he had formed a good rapport with President Barack Obama in two meetings when Obama was the Democratic candidate and that he plans to bolster Palestinian economic and civil institutions before starting more serious political negotiations.

Livni has countered that a right-wing government led by Netanyahu would inevitably clash with Washington."  IHT


However you inspect this result, the message seems clear that the Israeli electorate has moved significantly to the Right.

That is not good from the US standpoint. 

This means that the new government (whichever) will have a greatly restricted set of options in dealing with the Palestinians and the other regional powers.  This means that the "hair-trigger" of retaliatory sentiment will be set for quick action in any of the many possible kinds of "incidents" that will undoubtedly occur.

This means that the inevitable Israeli test of Barack Obama's independence from AIPAC pressure will be tougher and more persistant than it might have been.

This means that pressure for military action against Iran will be severe.  pl

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26 Responses to Israel Moves to the Right

  1. J says:

    When our nation unfortunately has an Israeli firster ‘gatekeeper’ as the White House COS, the ‘Israeli iron bubble’ around the President will be a tough nut to crack. Israel’s intel apparatus has made sure of that. Our IC & CI needs to ‘burst’ the Israeli bubble surrounding our President, and the quicker the better for our U.S..

  2. John Moore says:

    Hmmm, President and Secretary of State in debt to AIPAC. President’s Chief of Staff is former IDF member. Iran has successfully launched a satellite which means that they can launch ICBMs. Pakistan has freed nuclear weapons scientist Khan. Add in a possible “Great Depression” with its economic effects and the geopolitcal ramifications for the Middle East look grim with this news. What a mess!

  3. lina says:

    “This means that pressure for military action against Iran will be severe.” pl
    In the immortal words of Nancy Reagan: Just Say No.

  4. Bill Wade, NH, USA says:

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s a close call between the Fascists and the War Criminals. This does not bode well.

  5. doug says:

    Indeed the pressure to deal with Iran will be strong. How much stronger due to the rightward shift is debatable. The palpable fear of Iran transcends the right and left in most of Israeli politics.
    How this increased division plays out in American politics will be fascinating. One hopes we handle it effectively. Hope, however, isn’t a strategy but there isn’t much else us outsiders can do. The insiders have more options. Or so I hope.

  6. J says:

    One other thing I forgot to mention regarding the outcome of the latest Israeli elections, the racist Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu holds key. And that key is ‘bent far right’.

  7. zanzibar says:

    Since Lieberman’s fascist party could likely be a significant coalition partner in any government it seems that the “iron fist” will prevail. Not good for peace or stability.
    What are the implications if Khatami wins the presidency in Iran? Then it will not be easy to use Ahmadinejad as a caricature for demonization. I guess we will see the real power of AIPAC then and if Obama is a wily politician or weak kneed. Did anyone notice Obama trying to skirt Helen Thomas’s question if he knew of any nuclear weapons states in the Middle East?
    2009 will be an interesting year with geopolitics buffeted by the undertow of the global economic contraction and the need to restructure the global financial and trading regime. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail rather than make a difficult situation even worse.

  8. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “the inevitable Israeli test of Barack Obama’s independence from AIPAC pressure”
    Yes indeed. So for openers Team Obama should:
    1. Task the intelligence community for a fresh NIE on Israel which includes counterintelligence issues.
    2. Justice Department puts prosecutions on fast track for the AIPAC case/Franklin case.
    3. Justice Department then requires AIPAC to register as a foreign agent (of Israel) just like other foreign agents/lobbyists around town must do.
    4. Justice Department investigates status of “Religious Right” organizations, the Christian Zionist Lobby, to determine whether such organizations should also register as foreign agents of Israel. This would include CUFI, Christians United For Israel, led by Hagee.
    5. Justice Department and appropriate intelligence community assets investigate any counterintelligence issues associated with “Religious Right” and its relationship to Israel and lobbying on the Hill and general influence peddling in Washington and nationally.
    Once these openers are under way, we can move to some hard ball. Israelis forewarned that any attack on Iran by Israel to be treated like Ike treated Israel at Suez in 1956 (in an election year no less) along the following lines:
    1. Embargo all US weapons to Israel.
    2. Halt all foreign assistance to Israel.
    3. Deny tax exempt status for State of Israel bonds and freeze all sales of such bonds in United States financial markets.
    and so on.

  9. Jose says:

    First test on Obama will be the expansion to connect two settlements in the West Bank that Bibi campaigned on.
    If he doesn’t stand up, the President will loose all credibility with the Middle East including the Israeli’s.
    Then IAF will then get a green light to fly over Iraq, because Bibi will know who is in charged.
    If a war breaks out with Iran, Obama will not get reelected.
    Interesting times indeed.
    P.S. Does anybody know what happened to the Labor Party?
    They screwed up my prediction that Livni would really win…lol

  10. curious says:

    well, we have ultra rightwing coalition.
    Lebanon war and Iran operation probability just shot up nearing one.
    forget palestinian resolution. expect more conflicts.
    And there’s the rub.
    Even though Livni’s Kadima Party won the most seats, the political balance is on the right-wing side of the spectrum. The party with the greatest losses was Ehud Barak’s Labor Party. The party with the greatest political gains (if not actual seats) was Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. Livni cannot form a governing coalition on the center-left. There are not enought seats in play. Netanyahi could easily form a coalition on the right, but this would include Lieberman. Livni could also try to buy off Lieberman in a Kadima-Labor-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition.
    As anyone who follows Israeli politics knows, Avigdor Lieberman is a blatant racist who advocates deportation of Israel’s Arab population and execution of any Israeli Arab official in contact with Hamas. He openly jokes about killing Arab prisoners and bombing Palestinian towns. There will be no peace process with Lieberman in the government.
    Why should Americans care? Well, President Obama has indicated that restarting a comprehensive Middle Eastern peace process is central to his foreign policy. And the United States does give Israel more than $2.5 billion in aid every year – more than $100 billion since the inception of the state of Israel in 1949.
    Netanyahu issued a veiled threat towards Obama not to meddle in Israeli politics. But is it in the interests of the United States to have an avowed racist party in the Israeli government? Is it meddling to send a quiet message that U.S. support will be reconsidered if Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu is part of the next government?

  11. Andy says:

    Depressing but predictable. And so the Israeli-Palestinian death spiral continues, each side operating under the mistaken calculus that violence will compel the other. Instead, the violence only strengthens the radical elements on both sides with equally predictable results – yet more pointless bloodletting where innocents suffer the most.

  12. Cloned Poster says:

    My take is that Peres will prolong the clusterfuck and Kadima will try and garner penalty points by bombing the shit out of Gaza.
    And, like the recapitalization programme for banks, it’s not enough and more heavy shit will follow.

  13. R Whitman says:

    Several other things to consider:
    The rightward turn in Israel may accelerate the rappaprochment between the US and Iran.
    The Palestinians may start agitating for a Presidential election.Abbas term was up last month and he is on borrowed time. Most likely sucessor is Marwan Bargouti who is in an Israeli jail.

  14. It would be quite interesting and perhaps significant to know how the vote broke down in the Israeli population with US passports. Several childhood friends and even young adult friends that retained US passports and emigrated permanently to Israel have been all the way with the Likud party.
    Beyond that having had the soft and hard power projection of the US trashed by the actions of the politicians in the US (both parties)it will not be fun to watch the world scene develop when the Court of Last Resort (the US and its public opinion)will be the dispensed with nation not the indispensable nation. Since we seem to no longer have internal self-correctives within our democracy (Republic) perhaps the fact that “History” has not ended will teach the US some hard lessons. Just finished reading David Halberstram’s last book “Coldest Winter” with it conclusion that the Korean War taught the US a significant lesson–pretending to be an Empire or even being one is for adults that know when and where to defend the frontier. No wars to save the world or whatever–particularly in a nuclear age. I now am beginning to believe that nuclear strategy more than ever requires the best minds but this time unfortunately it will no longer be SIOPs but what to do with a single or even multiple WMD attack domestically by non-state actors — or while it seems more benign but probably is not–NUDETS occurring in the geography of principal allies or even allies using nukes, or even non-allies. Where are the adults? And another theme of mine–since no President has yet created a domestic crisis management system or chain of command without counting on early entry of the military into domestic life–perhaps President Obama would like to be the first! Perhaps even by the STATE of THE UNION address in several weeks. The Israeli election is one of the “EVENTS” in the saddle that is very worrisome for the US.

  15. castellio says:

    If you can’t admit that Israel is armed with nuclear weapons, then you can’t speak the truth.
    If you can’t speak the truth, you can’t discuss the real situation.
    If you can’t discuss the real situation, you have policies based on lies.
    How did the US come to this?

  16. @John Moore,
    Just because Iran broke into the “spacefaring” club (the first Islamic nation I might add), it does not necessarily follow that Iran has an ICBM capability. Yes, they can lift a payload much further than what their Scud-technology previously allowed. But, without any sort of proven reentry vehicle, the payloads they loft will not land on the target. Its one thing to fly something in the atmosphere and another thing entirely when the rocket goes exo-atmospheric. I raise this because the fear mongering on Iran’s missile/space program will be intense and unbalanced due to this most recent success. The only thing that success proves is that Iran will continue to improve thier own missile/space capability and that ultimately, they’ll get better. Just not right now tho’!
    @Zanzibar – I too noticed that dodge of Helen’s question by Pres. Obama. What an opportunity to break convention and put Israel on notice, no? Simply answering “Yes, Helen, Israel has a strong, survivable and deliverable deterrent. And because they do, they should not fear the emergence of a deterrable equal. Is that not the lesson of the Cold War?” Oh well. Another missed opportunity.

  17. VietnamVet says:

    The safe withdrawal from Iraq will require tenacious realistic leadership. The Afghanistan supply line is cut. The right wing ideologues have to be constrained in Israel. This is an impossible agenda in normal times.
    But, the United States is not in normal times. To stop the free fall of the economy, 14 big banks have to be nationalized. Secularized financing outlawed. Unless the Obama Administration gets Wall Street under control, what happens in the Middle East will be a moot point. Bankrupt nations cannot fight overseas wars.

  18. jr786 says:

    To Andy: Commendable hand-wringing, but if the recent history of Palestine has taught us anything it’s that violence and force really do work – at least when the zionists administer them. They’ve achieved all of their goals up to now by using relentless force and violence against Palestinians.
    To Castellio: Helen Thomas, bless her gadfly heart asked Obama this question at his Monday press conference:
    Question: Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan and — are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And, also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?
    Naturally he evaded both – but no answer is itself an answer.

  19. mo says:

    Right now Im betting the US is trying very hard to get a coalition govt. formed by Likud, Kadima and Labor (most likely under the leadership of Netnyahu). Keeping Lieberman and his odious politics out of any cabinet is vital to any Obama peace push. Netanyahu is arrogant and conceited but the US may be able to deal with him. Lieberman is beyond talking to.
    If a right wing coalition is put together and settlements expand at or greater than the rate of when Netenyahu was last in power you can expect Hamas’s stock in the West Bank to go up. If the settlements grow at that pace I would expect a third intifada and the West Bank Palestinians will get a taste of what the Gazans got. Another batch of Palestinian children executed, another batch of pictures for the Zionist agitators to call fake.
    I go into slightly more detail in my blog, but the key to the next year in Israeli-Palestinian politics is any Barghouti-Shalit swap.
    More alarmingly, how will a right wing Leiberman cabinet react when the Hizballah-led opposition win June’s Lebanese elections?
    Khatami will also most likely win an Iranian election but lest anyone make the mistake, the difference between Khatami and Ahmadinijad is no more than the difference between a rightist Livni and Ultra-rightists Netanyahu. The nuclear program wont stop and the support for Hizballah and Hamas (in whatever guise) won’t stop either. But I still think the Israelis are hoping for an Ahmadinijad victory. Its easier to bomb a bellicose leader than a seemingly moderate one.
    Oh and those talks with Syria, a footnote in the history of the Arab Israeli war.
    Egypt and Jordan are another Gaza away from revolution so for Arab nationalists the election of the Israeli right wing is good news as in both nations its the Muslim Brotherhood primed to take over. And if those dominoes fall, I wouldn’t want to be the King in Saudi or Bahrain or Morroco or President of Tunisia.
    Interesting times. I hope the people who host the Colonels blog are ready to handle the increased traffic that will be coming here this year.

  20. Tim Grimmett says:

    You have an old map. As of 2004, CENTCOM now has Syria
    and Lebanon in its AOR.

  21. Andy says:

    jr786, you said:
    Commendable hand-wringing, but if the recent history of Palestine has taught us anything it’s that violence and force really do work – at least when the zionists administer them. They’ve achieved all of their goals up to now by using relentless force and violence against Palestinians.
    It may appear that way at first glance, but I believe the gains are ultimately transitory and will carry a high cost for Israel in the future.

  22. graywolf says:

    To Clifford Kiracofe:
    Where does your loathing for Israel stop and your bias FOR Iran begin?
    Who is a friend of the USA?
    Israel or Iran?
    Do you care about US interests or are you another (omitted for ad hominen attack)?

  23. curious says:

    Where does your loathing for Israel stop and your bias FOR Iran begin?
    Who is a friend of the USA?
    graywolf | 12 February 2009 at 04:52 PM
    The foundation of international diplomacy is national interest, which in turn based on the people’s history, social outlook, geographical context, etc.
    it’s more than glorified personal relationship.
    at this moment, Israel national interest of territorial expansion clash with US interest of energy supply, stabilizing two conflicts, domestic economy, and the interest of others US allies.
    The divergence between Israel dream and destiny vs. US basic believe (eg. equality, democracy, freedom, etc) has gone far enough that we know we have to start laying about everything. what equality, democracy, and freedom are about.
    This is not sustainable. And this is not some abstract discussion, but have real economic impact. Nevermind the war. Energy price becomes unstable, international relationship, currency, world balance of power are all shaken.
    Question to our friend in Israel:
    how long do you intend to continue this? Do you really think another border clashing Lebanon, Palestinian bombing or escalation with major middle east country will not cost anything?
    How long do you plan to drag this fight with Palestinians? What you do is a major crime.
    US should be the enabler. There is nothing to gain for losing the soul of a nation.
    We should help Israel becoming a strong peaceful nation, not a protector of rogue nation.

  24. barrisj says:

    Ah, the cold steel of irony pierces deeply:
    But along with many members of Likud, she shifted toward the center in the past decade and ultimately helped set up Kadima in the center.”. Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” forever remains apposite, whenever contemporary words and phrases such as “moderate”, “centrist”, “peace process, etc., are introduced as legitimating and factual terms of definition. Newspeak lives, as if it ever died.

  25. crf says:

    A rightist government will cripple Israel’s economy, antagonize the United States, torpedo the peace process, and set in motion a Palestinian one state solution tactic, which is the worst case scenario, since Israel can’t negotiate under such a premise.
    I hope Netanyahu realizes this, and will ally himself with Livni. He is not an idiot, whatever he is. Lieberman is delusional. The far right in Israel has no positive future to offer the state: allying with them is a long term losing proposition for Netanyahu, even though he could immediately gain the presidency.

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