And the winner is… Bibi!

So Israel’s far-right political kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman has now informed Pres. Shimon Peres that his preference is for Likud’s Netanyahu. No real surprise there.
Probably no surprise in the fact that Lieberman, who formerly worked as a night-club bouncer and espouses rough-hewn racist political views, acted more like the king than the kingmaker in his conversation with Peres, laying down his own preferences for how Netanyahu should assemble his governing coalition.
The Haaretz account tells us that Lieberman told Peres,

    “[There are] three possibilities from our point of view: A broad government, which is what we want. A narrow government, that will be a government of paralysis, but we don’t rule out sitting in it. And the third option is going to elections, which will achieve nothing.”

Meanwhile, Labour and Meretz decided not to recommend anyone for the PM slot. That put paid, I suppose, to any hopes Livni might have had that she could assemble a strong team going into the negotiations.
But really, does anyone in Israel think it makes any difference what Labour and Meretz prefer, at this point?
I hope these latest elections will put an end to Ehud Barak’s career as head of Labour, once and for all. He doubtless hoped that by launching the war on Gaza he could catapult himself (and maybe also, I suppose, his party; but don’t count on that) back into a more powerful position in Israeli politics. Instead, the war merely energized the most retrograde and belligerent emotions of the Israeli public; and the fact that he and his partners in the outgoing government didn’t “finish the job off”, in the parlance of the right wing, sent voters flocking to the rightist parties.
But, wheels within wheels, Haaretz also tells us that,

    A Likud statement following [Lieberman’s] announcement said that Netanyahu would now attempt to convince Labor to join a coalition headed by him, and that a Netanyahu-Livni meeting would likely take place soon.
    Kadima MK Yisrael Katz said party chairwoman Tzipi Livni would have to decide whether or not to join a government under Netanyahu.
    “It is now up to [Livni] to make up her mind. Netanyahu has already made the magnanimous decision to ask her to join him in a broad coalition,” Katz said.

Magnanimous?? He probably hopes that a tamed Livni, serving in a subservient position under his premiership, can help ease his relations with Washington…
Livni responded by announcing that “Kadima won’t provide cover for a government of paralysis.” I suppose that includes paralysis in the so-called peace “process”, whose advancement she defined as a continuing concern for Kadima.
(Oh really? But I thought Kadima was at the head of the government over the past couple of years… and I haven’t seen them advance the peace “process” at all during that time… )
Bottom line: Expect a government of paralysis.

US opinionators fazed by rise of Israeli right?

Normally, the opinionators of the NYT and other mainstream US media are quick to express their views of every small development in the Israeli-Arab arena. However, the resounding success won by the rightist parties in Tuesday’s general election in Israel left these nabobs uncharacteristically speechless.
What, no pronunciamento from the NYT editorial board today on this latest big development in the land they so love and admire? No word from liberal op-ed icons Nick Christof or Roger Cohen in their contributions today?
Over at the WaPo, similarly, no opinions are expressed. On Israel. Though the editors do take the opportunity to gin up a bit more hostility to Hugo Chavez, over the campaign he has launched to challenge his country’s Jewish citizens to “declare themselves” in opposition to Israel’s actions in Gaza.
So when can we hope that the WaPo will publicly take Israel’s new kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman, to task for his many racist and bullying utterances against Palestinians and Arabs? When might we see the NYT’s editors calling out Leiberman as the thug he is, and calling forthrightly for using all elements of US power to secure an international-law-based “land for peace” settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict?
I guess we’d have to wait a long time, in the case of these two venerable pillars of US opinion-making. They like to project an image of themselves as generally “liberal”. But whenever that conflicts with the bedrock support that their owners and lead editors all subscribe to, of any government at all in Israel, then it’s the (veneer of) liberalism that gives way.
I imagine that right now, the leading opinionators at both papers are desperately trying to figure out a way to express themselves on the latest developments in Israel that can somehow reconcile their now starkly competing desires to (a) appear “liberal” and (b) support Israel.
Note that in “opinionators” I am not referring here to known rightwing pro-Israeli op-ed writers like Charles Krauthammer, Bill Cristol, etc. They of course will find ways to explain how “reasonable” both Netanyahu and Lieberman are; and how it is that supporting those ghastly right and ultra-right pols will actually “serve America’s interests in the war on terror”, etc etc. What they write will be mildly interesting… But what I’m most interested in is how the influential people who actually run these and other powerful MSM outlets, and who like to project themselves as “liberal” but hate to criticize Israel publicly, will express them on the latest Israeli election results.
One meme I’m predicting: That the rise of Lieberman and and Netanyahu can somehow (like the suffering of Gaza’s people) all be blamed on Hamas…
For my part, I think that much more of the rise of bellophilia in Israel in general, and of the right and ultra-right parties in particular, can be attributed to many decades of US policies that have given ways too much indulgence to the bellophilic and settlerist sensibilities in the Israeli body politic, abandoning key international and domestic law principles along the way.
That’s what we now need to focus on turning round. And it starts with telling some long-muted truths about the disturbing development of a new fascism in Israel.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s king-maker

The outcome of Israel’s elections may well be the worst possible– worse, even, than a clear victory by Likud. What we have instead, with 99% of the votes now counted, is Likud and Kadima just about tied (Kadime– 28 seats out of the Knesset’s 120, Likud–27 seats) and Lieberman’s fascist Yisrael Beitenu party holding the key swing position with an expected 15 seats.
Labour, as expected, is coming in fourth with 13 seats. The Mizrachi-orthodox party Shas is expected to win 11.
Leiberman is very bad news indeed.
As Ben Lynfield wrote in this December 2006 article for The Nation,

    If Lieberman’s pronouncements are to be taken seriously–and there is no obvious reason they should not be–a Lieberman[-led] government would exclude some Arab citizens from Israel, would expel others who refuse to sign a loyalty-to-Zionism oath, would turn Gaza into Grozny and would execute Arab members of the Knesset who talk to Hamas or mark Israel Independence Day as the anniversary of the displacement of the Palestinians in 1948.

Lieberman immigrated from Moldova to Israel at age 20, in 1978, and currently lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim. Exemplifying the racist aggressivity of many voluntary participants in settler-colonialist ventures over the decades he calls for, for example, stripping many Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel of their citizenship.
This policy prescription of his, alone, should send shivers down the back of anyone familiar with the history of Hitler’s Holocaust against the Jews.
In November 2006, he called for the execution of any Arab Knesset member who met with Hamas.
… What happens now, as I understand it, is that Israeli president Shimon Peres should call on the leader of the party he judges easiest able to assemble a 61-member coalition to form a coalition government.
An objective analysis might indicate that Peres should therefore call on Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu to have the first stab at doing this, since Netanyahu might hope fairly easily to assemble a solid-right coalition. However, Kadima did get one more vote than Likud, and Peres’s sympathies are probably more with Kadima than Likud (though who knows?), so he may well call on Kadima first, instead.
Either way, Lieberman would be a key swing actor.
To me, the results of this Israeli election have two main, complementary story-lines. One is the rise of Leiberman and the continuing solidity of Likud, even after the formation of Kadima, which took in more of Likud’s luminaries than it did of Labour’s: That is, the story of the continued rise of Israel’s Hard Right.
The other story is the continued demise of Israel’s once dominant ‘left’.
The graph on this page of today’s Haaretz shows us that while Labour is down to 13 seats, the more authentically leftist party Meretz is down to 3.
A Likud-Kadima-led coalition is still a possibility. They’d need a few more small parties to make up their government. But who would lead this government, and what policies would it pursue on the all-important peace issue? My guess on these two issues would be Netanyahu as PM and stasis on the peace issue.
It’s not as if the Kadima-led government that’s been in power in recent years has made any notable strides on peace, anyway.
I guess we’ll need to wait a while to learn the reactions from Washington…