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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Time to move over and let someone else drive for awhile

Without being aware of it, most of us automatically label anyone driving faster than us 'a maniac'... and anyone driving slower than us is 'an idiot'.

The same is pretty much the case with religion.  We file those who are even a little more religiously observant than us under the broad heading; 'fanatic', while those who are less observant are 'heretics'.

So, it should go without saying (although, naturally, I feel the need to say it) that politics are also subject to this involuntary, mental filing system.  Those to the right of us are militaristic fascists while those to the left of us are communist surrender monkeys.

In advance of Likud's primaries yesterday, Bibi Natanyahu held a press conference to try to head off this kind of pigeon-holing and said unequivocally that not only would he not be giving any cabinet positions to those who he considered radical elements within Likud (e.g. supporters of Moshe Feiglin), but that the numeric standing in the Likud primary results would not have any affect whatsoever on his choices for top government positions. 

He made it clear that the results of the primaries were important in that they demonstrated public support for a slate of candidates... but that he reserved the right to fill the top cabinet slots with the best qualified individual regardless of their post-primary standing.

In a rational world that should have been enough to silence much of the hysterical hair-pulling over the eventuality that many of the top primary spots would (and did) go to players from Likud's ideological right wing.

But rational behavior is, sadly, not in large supply in Israel's political circles.

Kadima's Livni is running scared and Labor's Barak is essentially a grease spot in the rear view mirror.  The two of them know that their only chance of swaying precious undecided voters and winning back seats from Likud in the coming election is to cry wolf about how "Likud will begin implementing their extremist policies" the moment they come to power. Heck, Meretz (as reported in Ynet) has gone so far as to say that "Likud has formed a new anti-peace front!" .

[~sigh~]

Deep breaths everyone.   It's not like Meretz, Labor and Kadima haven't had their turn at the wheel since the last election.  It's not as though there was a disruptive opposition keeping them from carrying out their 'pro-peace' agenda.

Unfortunately, Kadima and Labor managed their plans for peace about as well as they did their plans for the last war. Meaning they had no clear plan at all, other than to make staggeringly stupid unilateral concessions to an assortment of enemies who have expressed no interest whatsoever in becoming our friends.

Israel is nominally a democracy... which means you can vote for whatever party floats your boat.  And you should!  I'm less frightened of a democracy with a strong, responsible opposition than of one where everyone marches in lockstep.  But To ignore historical facts and expect the electorate to continue endorsing the same, clueless leadership (if you can even call what we've had to endure 'leadership'), is just lunacy.

Just in case some talking points are needed, let me be the first to offer a few:

You do not talk to people who are shooting at you.  Not bullets... and certainly not missiles.  And you certainly don't act as though they aren't shooting.  Any other nation on earth would consider such belligerency an open act of war.  Somehow we have gotten into the habit of treating it as if it were some inescapable, chronic problem like pollution. Abandoning any segment of the population to the bombs and missiles is to essentially give the land they are living on to your enemy.  Any government that willingly does so is done.  Move on. 

Being against the particulars and/or timing of a peace initiative does not make one 'anti-peace'.  It means that after a number of identical failures, it is time to try something else... or perhaps time to take a short break from trying in order to assess whether the other side actually is capable of (or interested in) making peace.

Kadima and Labor have no monopoly on talking with - and even assisting - our enemies.  Bibi has made it clear that he will continue a responsible dialog with the Palestinian leadership.  In fact, he has been saying for some time that the only way to create  a viable peace partner is to bolster their economy to the point that they don't need Israel or International aid to survive. 

Freeing terrorists from jail and returning them to the same handlers who sent them on their murderous missions in the first place will not promote peace.  You can call them confidence-building gestures, but the only thing it does is erode the confidence of Israelis that the government has a clue how to stop the relentless attacks.  Promoting responsible economic planning and enabling manageable economic growth for the Palestinians might give them something to think about other than killing us.  I'm not sure, but I'm willing to give Bibi a chance to test that theory.

One of the primary criticisms leveled at Bibi from the right during his tenure as leader of the opposition is that he didn't make life difficult enough for the Kadima/Labor coalition government.  During the war in Lebanon Bibi became the defacto spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, and afterward acted much more forcefully to to ride herd on the right than to hamstring the left.  So it is funny to suddenly hear  Meretz, Labor and Kadima screaming and maneuvering in the most irresponsible manor as though they are already in the opposition.

Labor arrogantly labeled Likud predictions of missiles falling on Ashkelon as 'scare mongering'. Yet the Grad Ketyushas that fell on Ashkelon last week (and the countless rockets that continue to fall on Sderot, Ashkelon and the western Negev) are apparently less important to Labor and Kadima than the number of Knesset seats they can coax from a balky electorate.

At a certain point, failed policies and failed regimes must be peacefully set aside and new ideas tried.  Livni and Barak have demonstrated beyond all doubt that they don't have a new idea between them (other than how to attack the Likud).  And that's okay.  The job of the opposition is to be critical of those in power.  So it is time to make sure that Kadima and Labor are placed firmly where they can carry on criticizing and do a minimum of harm (and a maximum of good); in the opposition.

I'll be the first to admit that Bibi is not the ideal candidate.  But he is arguably the only one responsible for this country being well-positioned to weather the current global economic storm... and he has spent years demonstrating that he can and will act responsibly to place the good of the country before his own (ample) political aspirations. 

The new Likud is full of promising new faces and ideas (as well as old party hacks), and Bibi has promised to look well down his party list... and also to the ranks of other political parties... to select the leaders most capable of helping him face Israel's current and future challenges.  Personally, I can't ask more than that.

Say what you want about Bibi, but he is not anti-peace or an extremist on any account.  Nor is he shackled to any militant extremists or radical political elements.  Anyone who says either is either willfully ignorant or woefully unfamiliar with Israel's parliamentarian system.

Is Bibi perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But is it long past time to push aside the architects of years of fecklessness and failure in order to try an entirely different approach to domestic and foreign policy?  In my humble opinion; Yes.

You are entitled to your own opinion and vote (that's why it's called a democracy), but stop telling me why not to vote for the Likud/Bibi, and start telling me what your party has to offer this country that hasn't already been proven a dismal failure.

Update:  I just saw the following quote from Livni in which she is trying to sound strong by advocating a token military response to continued rocket fire from Gaza (I swear, you can't make this stuff up!):

"A [military] response is important; even if it doesn't automatically end the Palestinian rocket fire, there is something important in the impression, and Israel's deterrence ability.  The strategic goal in my eyes is to prevent the establishment of an extremist Islamic terror state along Israel's southern border." [emphasis mine]

Um, news flash for Livni... that ship sailed.  Maybe you missed the meeting where it was discussed, but Israel already has an extremist Islamic terror state along its southern border.  What's your next big plan?

Yet another update (my lunchtime reading was chock full of shameless sound bites):

Disgraced Kadima Prime minister Ehud Olmert said today:

"The Likud ...is...a right-wing party that will isolate Israel in a corner..."

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn't this the same person who carried water for Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan by repeatedly assuring us that withdrawal from Gaza would improve Israel's international standing and make us the darling of the international community? 

That worked out well, didn't it? Even failed states and remorseless despots still shun Israel, and our 'friends' still try to arrest our generals for war crimes!

Posted by David Bogner on December 9, 2008 | Permalink

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Tracked on Dec 11, 2008 12:48:59 AM

Comments

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Wow, honey! I guess great minds really do think alike!

I saw the Avshalom Vilan/Meretz quote at the YNET online English edition and got spitting mad!

I am so tired of the venomous rhetoric and am completely disgusted by the polarization of how the various segments of Israeli society are being portrayed in the media – be they theological, political, or ideaological (or any combination of the above).

This business of demonizing and dehumanizing the opposition – I fear it will be the end of us, truly I do. When our own politicians – who are supposed to, after elections, sit down and work together treat the opposition as worse than the guys lobbing rocks/bullets/rockets/missiles at us….[GAH!]

And don’t get me started on the media, whose self-promotional interests allow them to both further sensationalize and then print such drivel….

These days, politicians and journalists seem more closely related to the ancient profession of prostitution than pimps….

For the record, Mr. Vilan, people can be pro-peace without agreeing with your method of how to achieve it. Stunning record, by the way, you and your Meretz crones have on getting the rockets to stop falling on the south-western border of Israel…. It might be peaceful where you live, but there is a significant percentage of the population which might disagree not only with your method of achieving peace, but your definition of peace as well…

[GAH!] The proximity to today’s news makes me want to take an long hot shower….

Posted by: zahava | Dec 9, 2008 2:59:04 PM

In the book "17 conversations with Assa Kasher", the good Professor simultaneously answers those who bemoan the lack of a "peace" partner and those who are willing to prostitute themselves for the sake of "peace":

"It's not that we don't have anyone with whom to conduct a dialogue, there is always someone on the other side with whom to speak. The problem is that there is no one who can be trusted."

That's the "peace process" in a nutshell.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Dec 9, 2008 6:18:42 PM

Well said as always David. This caught my eye, "Being against the particulars and/or timing of a peace initiative does not make one 'anti-peace'. It means that after a number of identical failures, it is time to try something else..."

Isn't one definition of insanity trying something over and over again hoping for different results?

The way the world, let alone Israel, is going, it's time to try something else, 'cuz what we've been doing just isn't working!

Posted by: Jesse | Dec 9, 2008 6:39:05 PM

I think it's high time Trep ran for office. He is articulate and spot on, as the Brits would say. I have another concern, however.Please tell me that communication in the Trep household is more than he posts, she responds!

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Dec 9, 2008 7:59:38 PM

"[Bibi] has been saying for some time that the only way to create a viable peace partner is to bolster their economy to the point that they don't need Israel or International aid to survive..."

If only. It has finally dawned on me that economic growth is that LAST thing anyone in the Palestinian leadership wants. If that were to happen they'd have to give up their generous international aid flows and actually have to act like leaders who know how to manage an economy.

More importantly, the Palestinians would lose the claim to victimhood that comes with chronic underdevelopment. As if Israel closes Pali borders to prevent the passage of commerce, not the flight of missiles...

Posted by: Lisa | Dec 9, 2008 9:11:09 PM

As expected, you broke that down very well. If only people would spend a few minutes to grasp that concept before welding themselves to an ideology (right or left). I would also like to see an end to the attitude in Israeli politics that any linkage whatsoever to Judaism - any concept of Jewishness as related to the existance, or continued existance, of the state of Israel as being necessarily a bad thing.

Posted by: Kae Gregory | Dec 9, 2008 9:22:22 PM

Would love to learn more about the political system and current political climate in Israel. Any advice/recommendations on books for the beginner? Thanks!

Posted by: Jendeis | Dec 9, 2008 10:14:19 PM

Lisa - You are absolutely correct. Developing their economy will cause massive upheaval in their social system. They might even end up with a leadership that isn't only based on killing Jews.

I think Bibi's statement misses a few steps along the way, but I think it's a reasonable place to start.

Posted by: triLcat | Dec 10, 2008 4:32:40 AM

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