Cease-fire in place, Israeli politicians can now take pot shots at each other


The cease-fire that ended Israel’s war in Gaza also ended a political truce — the one that has kept 34 Israeli political parties from trashing their opponents in the campaign ahead of Israel’s Feb. 10 national elections.

The cease-fire that ended Operation Cast Lead at 2 a.m. on Sunday reignited the political campaign after a three-week cease-fire that was thrust on the 34 parties running in February 10’s election by the forces of political correctness, which prohibit infighting during a real war on the military battlefield. Naturally, the cease-fire was repeatedly violated, as seems to happen with all cease-fires. But the violations happened mainly at the level of the top commanders of Kadima and Labor, who fought among themselves, and did not carry over to the soldiers in the field. Now the political soldiers can finally begin to fight in what is bound to be an intense battle. Imagine the recent US election that stretched over 21 long months packed into 21 short days…

And while the IDF could go back into the Gaza Strip at a moment’s notice, no one wants to go back to elections any time soon. Whoever wins the battle that ends on February 10 will be our commander in chief for at least a couple of years, until the next political battle royal commences.

One of the key considerations of the Israeli government behind its brutal military assault against the Palestinians is political: Leaders of the partners in the ruling coalition, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, want to tell the Israeli voters that they are capable of taking “tough decisions” when it comes to the “security” of the people of Israel.

  • Ben Smith of Politico.com says Democrats close to the Obama administration are already looking ahead to Israel’s elections. He quotes a former Clinton administration ambassador to Israel as saying: 

If the result is a center-right coalition, it’s going to be much harder to make progress on the peace process issues.

  • Israel’s political parties appear to have their election strategies in place, Ynet reports.
  • A survey conducted Sunday says that the Gaza operation will increase voter turnout in Israel’s elections.

The two largest Arab political parties in Israel have been barred by Israel’s Central Elections Committee from running in the Feb. 10 poll. The action was taken in response to petitions by right-wing parties claiming that the Arab parties do not recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland and call for armed conflict against Israel. On Monday, the two Arab parties, Balad and the United Arab List-Ta’al, appealed the decision to Israel’s Supreme Court. Attorneys from Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, prepared the 500-page appeal.

  • Meanwhile, an editorial in the left-leaning Ha’aretz slammed the committee’s decision:

This reflects a dangerous level of shortsightedness and narrow-mindedness. The state has a clear interest in having the Arab community’s representatives — its genuine representatives — participate in the political game and serve in the Knesset. Israel has a clear interest in not pushing these representatives out, forcing them to create an independent political system. It is precisely the intense debates between the extreme right and Arab parties that exemplify Israeli democracy and its ability to include such disparate factions under one roof.

  • The right-leaning Jerusalem Post supported the committee’s decision:

Democracies are not obligated to commit suicide… In a world where 21 states define themselves as "Arab," and 56 proudly identify as Islamic, we do have a problem with Knesset members who begrudge Jewish self-determination within the rubric of a democratic Israel that respects minority rights.

  • Two Ynet Op-Ed writers disagreed on whether the Central Elections Committee’s decision was right. Uri Misgav called the decision shameful. Emanuel Shiloh, the editor of a national-religious weekly newspaper, praised the committee’s decision, saying it sends a message to Arab-Israeli leaders that they cannot reject the Jewish state while serving in its legislature:

Despite the claims of discrimination which they commonly make, there is no denying that Israeli Arabs enjoy the advantages of living under Israel’s democracy without being asked to bear the price of its existence in terms of putting their lives on the line. They do not die on the battlefield like the Jews or the Druze, and they vehemently oppose the notion of civil service within their own communities… Therefore, they continue to smear Israel’s democracy while at the same time firmly objecting to any proposal that would see even one of their villages within Israel being transferred to the Palestinian Authority’s control.

Whatever its merits, the disqualification was little more than a political stunt, supported by representatives of centrist parties aiming to please the hard right before the process of coalition-building begins. Israel’s Supreme Court, which has issued strong rulings in favour of Arab parties before, is almost certain to strike down the decision. Israeli Arabs will then be able to vote freely, as they always have – a right denied elsewhere in the Middle East… Israel would honor its ideals better by working to be more inclusive, not less, for its non-Jewish minority.

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