Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Election equations -- Israel

7 AM results -- below this posting.

Israeli election results are bewildering even for those who think they
understand the political lay of the land, partly because it will take weeks
for a governing coalition to take shape.

Advocacy journalists and agenda-driven media outlets are confusing the situation even further for those abroad by claiming that Israel holds virtually all of the cards in Arab-Israel peace-making.

The importance of Tuesday¹s results notwithstanding, what Israel does ­ or
fails to do ­comprises only part of the peace-making equation.

CNN¹s Ben Wedeman¹s point of departure, ahead of our elections, was the
bogeyman of "Palestinian despair." Having "just been tear-gassed" by
Israeli soldiers while covering riots near the security barrier ­-- where
Israeli settlements have "increasingly encroached" on Arab farmland --
Wedeman implies that Israel does not, really, want a two-state solution.

The Palestinians are being offered "an ever smaller, ever more economically
unviable territory," Wedeman reports. And so they are left to seek a
"one-state solution" in which an eventual Arab majority will demographically
overwhelm the Jews.

The magnanimous, arguably reckless, territorial concessions Ehud Olmert has
just offered Mahmoud Abbas count for nothing.

IF YOU can get innocents abroad to believe that Israel has refused to offer
the Palestinians a viable two-state solution ­ you can also insinuate that
Israelis will reap what they sow. The new prime minister, London's Daily Telegraph informs, "will face one unavoidable reality: the area between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean will soon have more Arabs than Jews."

No one champions the idea of 3.5 million or so hostile Palestinians living
under the jurisdiction of five million Jews. The demographic clock is ticking, but not quite as fast as the Telegraph would have its readers

Pity those who lack the back-story: The Arabs have been rejecting a
two-state solution since the UN¹s 1947 Partition Plan, and that rejection
created the refugee problem. The Palestinians have also consistently
rejected exchanging land for peace, and that rejection created the settlement "problem."

Perceptions are further skewed when the idea is implanted that the onus of
peace-making is entirely on Israel. Sky News said our elections "will shape
the future of peace in the Middle East." At stake was Israel's "final
borders," Asia News opined. The Times of India reported that Palestinians hope "President Barack Obama will help ensure that whoever becomes prime minister does not bury the already teetering peace process."

It's as if there were no Arab interlocutors to "shape" or "bury" events. But
there are. Diminishing their responsibilities presents only half the

Over-simplification is another way to guarantee skewed perceptions. In 1977,
the foreign media practically lynched Menachem Begin as an enemy of peace.
Yet he became the first Israeli premier to sign a peace treaty with an Arab

Similarly, Binyamin Netanyahu has been pigeonholed as "hawkish." And while
it is true that Tzipi Livni is a "centrist," Israel's entire political
spectrum has shifted rightward in reaction to years of Palestinian

Avigdor Lieberman is all too simplistically tagged as being on the "far
Right." Reuters prefers "ultra-rightist." But the Lieberman phenomenon needs
context. Voters susceptible to populist or demagogic appeals do, from time
to time, catapult protest parties to power, only to abandon them when the
magic wears off ­-- witness the Pensioners and Shinui.

Isn't the Guardian¹s Jonathan Freedland oversimplifying in claiming that Netanyahu rules out "any compromise" on Jerusalem, and is "still refusing" to accept a Palestinian state? Is it not a gross exaggeration to claim, as an Associated Press dispatch did, that Netanyahu "opposes giving up land-for-peace"? Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post that he would be delighted to find a formula that allows the Palestinians to govern themselves and Israel to live in security.

Regardless of whether our next prime minister is called Livni or Netanyahu -- something that is not clear this post-election day -- Israel needs an Arab partner with whom to make peace. Ultimately, of course, a deal is dependent on what happens in both polities.

That said, Israel must not shirk its half of the conflict resolution
equation. Our next premier must ensure that all coalition partners in the
new government are committed to what, is after all, a strategic imperative
for Israel ­ peace.


As of 7 AM: Kadima has won 28 Knesset seats, the Likud—27, Yisrael Beiteinu—15, Labor—13, Shas—11, United Torah Judaism—5, Hadash, United Arab List-Arab Movement for Renewal and the National Union—4 each, The Jewish Home, Balad and Meretz — 3 each.

The right wing bloc holds a clear majority of 65 Knesset seats compared to the center-left’s 55.

The votes of IDF personnel have not all yet been counted.

Voter turnout was 65%

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