Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mr Obama, stay out of internal Israeli affairs

The inimitable Jeffrey Goldberg, over at the Atlantic, writes:

I've been on the phone with many of the usual suspects (White House and otherwise), and I think it's fair to say that Obama is not trying to destroy America's relations with Israel; he's trying to organize Tzipi Livni's campaign for prime minister, or at least for her inclusion in a broad-based centrist government. I'm not actually suggesting that the White House is directly meddling in internal Israeli politics, but it's clear to everyone -- at the White House, at the State Department, at Goldblog -- that no progress will be made on any front if Avigdor Lieberman's far-right party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Eli Yishai's fundamentalist Shas Party, remain in Netanyahu's surpassingly fragile coalition.

So what is the goal? The goal is force a rupture in the governing coalition that will make it necessary for Netanyahu to take into his government Livni's centrist Kadima Party (he has already tried to do this, but too much on his terms) and form a broad, 68-seat majority in Knesset that does not have to rely on gangsters, messianists and medievalists for votes. It's up to Livni, of course, to recognize that it is in Israel's best interests to join a government with Netanyahu and Barak, and I, for one, hope she puts the interests of Israel ahead of her own ambitions.

1. The White House may not be "directly" meddling in internal Israeli politics, but it's doing a helluva job indirectly meddling in internal Israeli politics. There is an enormous difference between trying to change the regime in a dictatorship, where the population's will is trampled on and ignored - and in a democracy, a democratic ally no less, where the population expresses its will effectively through a functioning Parliament. Interesting the Obama was against regime change in Iraq - the dictatorship - but seems to be pro in Israel - the democracy.

2. The idea of Obama trying to shape Israeli politics while support for him, personally, and for his own party crumbles around him back home, is laughable. He should worry about his own domestic politics first.

3. The real proof of Obama's utter folly and ignorance in this affair is the attempt to "make" Bibi bring in Kadima to the coalition. Bibi tried hard to bring in Tzippi Livni to his coalition - the refusal was all on her part. She does not want to be number two to Bibi's number one. Yet again, Obama seems to be pressuring the wrong party in the Middle East... sound familiar, anyone?

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