Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Yvette?
Yesterday, I was frightened. Weeks and weeks of racist, xenophobic commercials from Yisrael Beiteinu had my blood pressure up, and polls showing Mr. Lieberman getting as many as 20 mandates on fear alone had me wondering who these Israelis were, and my boycott pencil was being sharpened.
Last night, as I watched results come in, I was curious and confused.
Today, I am feeling better.
Yes, yes, yes. I wish things were different. I wish they were a lot different. I wish the Israeli electorate had firmly rejected Mr. Lieberman’s plays. I wish they had thrown all their votes behind Meretz, Labor and Kadima. I wish the greens had gotten a pair of seats – even if it meant that Rabbi Melchior would be back again. But, they aren’t. However, when I do look out at the new Knesset, I think there may still be hope. That hope is – Yvette Lieberman.
“What about Lieberman!” you scream. Well yes. The guy is a jerk. He ran a horrible, evil campaign that has no place in either a democratic or a Jewish state. That being said, he didn’t too well. Yisrael Beiteinu is primarily a special interest party for Russian immigrants. In the previous two election cycles, they ran on exactly that platform. Their commercials were entirely in Russian and it can be assumed that virtually all of their voters came from that demographic. This year, Mr. Lieberman tried something new. He decided he would cast his aim for the entire non-Arab population. He brought over the well known hawk Uzi Landau as his number two, and he went about his regrettable program. The result – an increase of three or four mandates. Sounds meaningful, but take a look. Two of those were cannibalized from the ordinary right wing parties (which fell from 9 to 7 seats) The other one or two is probably attributable to the natural growth of a special interest party. Bottom line, I think Lieberman was elected to help Russians (and indirectly Americans) deal with the Rabbinate. And guess what – he knows that too.
It’s because he knows that that he’s talking to Livni. Bibi has made a pact with Shas, and he’s been absolutely transparent about that. As much as Lieberman might talk about hating Tibi and Bashara, his constituents really hate Yishai and Deri. It was opposition to “Shaskontrol” that created Russian political awareness, and he can’t give on on those issues. Lieberman could be enticed to work with Kadima, and his long list of powerless, inexperienced MKs should be easy to control.
What about the peace process! I wouldn’t give up hope on that in a Kadima/Lieberman coalition. I will say it again, Lieberman’s policies are evil and repugnant. But, as Ari pointed out in a comment on the last post – he does support a two state solution. In today’s political climate, we need to look for partners on both sides that are willing to support pragmatic decisions, even if we have to hold our noses at their reasons.
The only problem with this plan is that that still only makes a government of 44 or 45. Yeah, we can pay off UTJ and get another five seats, but we would still be short. Meretz, understandably, will not sit with Lieberman. The ball is then in Labor’s court. Labor has sat with Yisrael Beiteinu for the past few years and that has worked out. There is a lot of pressure on Barak to sit out of the next government, and there are good reasons for that. It probably is best for the Labor party to take a break, to rehabilitate. But, the question that needs to guide decisions is not what’s best for a person or party, but what’s best for the state and for the region. I think there are plenty of good people in Labor that understand that too.
So, it could happen. Not pretty, but possible, and not beyond hope. The way I see it there’s about a sixty percent chance that Netanyahu will put together a far-right/religious coalition. That sounds definitely bad. But, if we swallow our pride, and keep our eyes on the goal, I would say there is hope still for a center-left/secular government which could help lead this country.