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Political survival and national survival

 

Israeli politics is straining under the pressure of the US, and those led by the US to keep conversations with the Palestinians going, and the counter pressure from coalition members who are tired of the charade, and resist paying the price of prisoner releases.

 
The potential for this conflict has been around since the onset of John Kerry's obsession with achieving what most in the know have considered unattainable.
 
The issue is not conversations with Palestinians. Those are part of the environment, essential to deal with daily issues of mutual interest.
 
The problem is the American conception of grand negotiations meant to settle all the issues (refugees, borders, Jerusalem) that have proven too sensitive for either Israelis or Palestinians.
 
A State Department spokesperson has said that both Israelis and Palestinians want the conversations to continue.
 
The reality is that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have wanted to negotiate in such a format. Whatever claims they are making seem designed to avoid offending the American initiators and promoters of the negotiations.
 
Among the fears of Israelis, are that the one and perhaps only friend and source of support will tire of Israel, and stop the flow of money, technical cooperation, supplies of equipment, and political backup.
 
The money is less important than it was at one time. A total cutoff of technical cooperation might be catastrophic, but that is unlikely given the support of Israel in Congress, and at least the small awareness in the administration that the failure of the peace process is not entirely Israel's fault.
 
US political support in international forums might falter, with who knows what tangible results.
 
The UN's recognition of a Palestinian state will be an insult to Israel, but may not do much by way of practical importance.
 
A spread of the BDS movement is worrying, against the possibility that its impact may be blunted by pro-Israel activists in the United States, and the spread of concern about Muslims in European countries with aggressive minority communities.
 
In the domestic mix is the weight of the settler/religious nationalist bloc, best represented by Jewish Home.
 
Party leader Naftali Bennett is standing up to the Prime Minister, who has been willing to please the Americans by releasing murderers from Israeli jails.
 
Within Jewish Home is a conflict--perhaps within some of its Knesset members--between a concern for Jonathan Pollard and a  reluctance to free more Palestinians in a Pollard-prisoner deal to keep the conversations going. 
 
In the background is some personal animosity between the Netanyahus and Bennett. The national scuttlebutt is that Sara was instrumental some years ago in Bennett's having to leave his post as Netanyahu's Chief of Staff.
 
Bennett's threat to leave the government if there is another prisoner release has raised the prospects of an election, with surveys and speculation on what changes, if any, would result.
 
Poll results depend on maneuvers among the players, especially the question of whether Likud and Israel our Home will run again as a team, or separately, and the prospect of a new player in the game. 
 
Lieberman has his eye on the big prize, if not in the next election, perhaps the one after that. His party has gone beyond its initial Russian base, and he has made some effort to broaden his appeal.
 
The big loser at the present time is Yair Lapid, likely to drop from 19 to 10 Knesset seats. He has not satisfied middle class  aspirations for more goodies, or for an evening out of the military burdens with the ultra-Orthodox. 
 
The media prospect is Moshe Kahlon, who made his name as a Likud Minister of Communication by reducing the cost of using cell phones, then had a falling out with Benyamin Netanyahu. He may be the next Yair Lapid, i.e., someone new and exciting. Kahlon  is currently polled to get 10 Knesset  seats, although he is yet to name his party or his colleagues on its list of candidates.
 
Tsipi Livni remains the most outspoken advocate of negotiations. She and her party colleagues are about the only Israelis claiming progress in those talks. Recent leaks are that the participants have only been talking about talking (i.e., extending the discussions) since December. Livni's party's decline in the latest poll from 6 to 4 seats, and close to unanimous rejection of her claims of progress by other politicians and commentators, suggest her limited credibility.
 
Political survival appears primary, as suggested by Livni's claims of progress, and Naftali Bennet's threat to take the settler-religious nationalist party out of the government on the issue of more prisoner releases.  Their concern for political survival should not surprise anyone who has spent a bit of time observing politics here, there, or anywhere.
 
"Settlements" are front and center in the conflict between the Livni and Bennett wings of the Israeli government. Livni sees them as a problem in reaching agreement with the Palestinians. Bennett sees them as the heart and soul of his political party. 
 
"Settlement"  has taken on the character of  a four letter word. You can tell a person's politics by their use of it. Some, including occupants of the present White House, use the word for everything over the 1967 borders, including my neighborhood of French Hill. Extremists use it for all of Israel. Moderates use it only with respect to locales outside of Jerusalem, or  only for smaller communities beyond the wall. The most settler-friendly use it for only the tiniest clusters of trailers scattered here and there.
 
Political survival in Israel is at least somewhat tied up with national survival.
 
Such a view gains weight in the light of Jewish history, the resurgence of animosity cloaked in anti-Zionism and humane or legalistic justifications for the  Palestinian narrative, along with BDS, all of which may be anti-Semitism in contemporary dress.
 
Iran isn't too far over the horizon, and few are relying on Barack Obama to prevent that country from obtaining nuclear weapons. 
 
The season of Passover urges us to hope as well as despair. Misery and salvation are the competing themes that we recite and sing at the Seder, between the four glasses of wine required by the ritual. 
 
Good Friday and Easter used to be times for special concern among the Jewish communities in Christian countries. It was then that the theme of Christ killers could spur a deadly pogrom.
 
Now the Christians of the world are largely civilized, and many of them are fervent supporters of Israel. Muslims have taken their place as the most virulent of the anti-Semites, but Good Friday and Easter do not figure in their calender.
 
Thanks to Israel's own creativity, along with help from Germany and the US, the Iranians have to worry about what's in the Israeli arsenal.
 
The nation of Israel  (עם ישראל או עם יהודי) which includes the Jewish Diaspora as well as those of us here, is arguably stronger than at any time in history. John Kerry's obsessions do not reflect a united view in the American establishment. At least some Europeans have been sensitized by their own problems with Muslims about Israeli claims of Palestinian intransigence. 
 
Israelis are far from abandoning the Jewish traditions and strengths of internal dispute as to our interests. 
 
Muslims have been tearing themselves apart since the onset of Arab spring, and are unlikely to have much energy for Israel during the coming years.
 
Quiet dealing between Israel and countries across the Middle East  and the repeated failures of Arab countries to deliver on promises of financial aid suggest that Arab bluster in behalf of Palestine is at least partly lip service.
 
The most recent bad news is that a senior police officer was killed, and his wife injured as they drove alongside a Palestinian village  to a Passover seder. The residents of that village will suffer the inconvenience of a heavy security presence until personnel put their hands on the killer. The Prime Minister is assigning responsibility to Palestinian incitement, and citing the leadership for its failure to condemn the killing.
 
A corrective perspective is that on the same day five Israelis died in road accidents associated with the mass movements for Passover celebrations. One of those who died was a senior media commentator and university lecturer in political science. 
 
In that sad statistic, the country isn't all that different from what happens in other countries when the people go on the roads to celebrate a national holiday.
 
As always, and for good historic reasons, Easter weekend generally coincides with Passover.
 
This is a busy weekend in Jerusalem, where a lot happened. Jews may think about the hatreds and carnage associated with the season in times past, but we shouldn't neglect to wish our Christian neighbors all that is appropriate for the season.
 

 
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