Global, Israel

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.

4 thoughts on “Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Yvette?

  1. A few things:
    1. I don’t think a Kadima-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition will produce the results you say it will. Sure, Lieberman does to an extent support a two-state solution and he does not have a good track record of keeping his campaign promises (in 2006 he ran on an anti-crime platform). However, I can’t see Livni getting anything done in regards towards the peace process that won’t cause Yvette to leave the coalition.
    2. I think Kadima needs to let Likud take power, fail (which is inevitable, in my view), and come back in the next election with a new Kadima-Labor-Meretz merger (or something along those lines) that offers a fresh voice and new direction for the country. Then when this party takes power, it can say “Look, you guys (the right) couldn’t do it, we (the center-left) couldn’t do it, so let’s work out our difference and go forward together.” A Center-Left government will have a peace oriented mindset, but — and this is where the center comes in — recognize that the whole government, even the opposition, must accpet such major decisions. That is a centrism that will work: thinking from the left, governing from the center. Olmert and Barak failed because thought that centrism was taking some right-wing and some left-wing positions, and governing accordingly. In reality, it is having your own positions and seeking compromise.
    Idealistic, maybe, but no one else is these days.

  2. Way back when, when Meimad was actually a real party, in that old Barak government, some dispute arose. I forget what it was. But the leadership of the party, including its founders, overwhelmingly decided to resign from the coalition. Melchior, then in the Knesset, refused to give up his seat. As a result, all of those people who had built up the party for years, and had turned it into something that could have a meaningful impact on Israeli discourse both within the religious world and without, resigned. The party became an empty shell. Yet, Melchior survived.
    Since that day, he has stuck around. Proud to use this ‘Meimad’ title, and to carry himself around as the “one rabbi on the left.’ He sacrificed all of the political capital that was built up to make himself a token. It’s about time that he leaves, and we can restart the conversation of the political ramifications of Jewish values.

  3. I’m a Jew who spends most of his blogging time on pro-Arab/Pali blogs, so perhaps I’m coming at this from a different set of understandings and need some clarification…
    What do you mean by “my boycott pencil”?

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