Bibi Plummets to Victory?…questions Dr Ron Weiser

March 22, 2013 by Ron Weiser
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[mpoverlay]Israel has a new Government and at the time of writing, President Obama has arrived in Israel for his first trip there as President of the USA.

Dr Ron Weiser

Dr Ron Weiser

It is no secret that the headline I found most apt after the Israeli election was the one from Ha’aretz – “Bibi Plummets to Victory”.

Bibi is currently unchallenged as the only person fit and able for the role of Prime Minister, but leading a party that now has been reduced to only 20 seats (out of 120) in the Knesset. Ergo the headline.

Now also with an array of younger people hard on his heels who are charismatic, intelligent, agenda driven and as yet untainted by the odour of political expediency – and on whom the length of this Government’s term relies.

The conduct and actions of this Government will determine whether this will be Bibi’s last term as PM and/or whether the newbies will be able to carry through – or give the perception of carrying through – those agendas they have publically stated as their key objectives.

The coalition should be no surprise, Bibi had only 2 choices once he realised that Lapid and Bennett could not be separated:

– either more of the same with very reliable Haredi partners who in return for the support of their own sectors, gave Bibi full reign in everything else

– or accepting the demand of the electorate and going for a so called “Zionist” coalition, that is, going for a coalition of those who serve in the army, do national service, contribute the bulk of the finances by working and paying taxes and desiring a change in the Rabbinic leadership to deal with issues of conversion and personal status.

The delay in going for the second option was due to Bibi’s hope that he could split Lapid and Bennett and entice at least one of them into the coalition alone.

The stark difference from past political horse trading was that both Lapid and Bennett stuck to their principles and political platforms and refused to be separated by the usual political “bribes”.

This elevated them in the public’s estimation and provided a stark contrast to Tzippi Livni, Amir Peretz and to Bibi himself – i.e. the “old guard”.

A casual observer would have been understandably confused as many commentators called the election result, incorrectly in my view, a more or less equal left/right split.

As I have described in an earlier piece – Lapid and Bennett have much in common and are natural partners across many areas, especially as on the external situation there is a strong Israeli consensus, arguably even more so at this present time, which is why the Palestinian issue played such a small role in this election.

And why what unites Lapid and Bennett is far more important that what might – might – separate them.

People spend a lot of time discussing whether Abbas is sincere or not, but that is of little practical relevance to the Israel/Palestinian dispute.

More importantly, Abbas is an illegitimate leader and one who has no ability currently to deliver on a deal.

Until he tells his people, in Arabic, that Israel as Jewish State is there to stay and that a future Palestinian State is predicated on any Palestinian “Right of Return” being to it and not to Israel, even the supposedly moderate Fatah leader cannot make a deal without appearing to be a traitor in the minds of those who do support him, let alone those who do not.

Notwithstanding what Abbas says in English, his people are told something else in Arabic.

And of course the more popular Hamas who are very clear in both English and Arabic that no Israel of any size at all is a legitimate entity in their eyes.

A rift between Lapid and Bennett on the external issue only may – and I emphasise, may – arise if President Obama would bring a deal that the world was willing to attempt to impose along with a clear and courageous Abbas that would finally commit to a 2 State for 2 People formula.

It is interesting to note that almost the first act of the new Government was to demolish 6 more settler homes this week.

This is after Bibi took down the settlement of Ulpana in July and Migron in September.

People who discuss “settlements” without a map can easily be misled.

So I would be very careful about describing this Government as either pro or anti settler – as that term has little meaning in any case.

The new Government is united – including Tzippi Livni – on strengthening the settlement blocks – this means money for infrastructure and upwards development.

In Israel that is what a centre left party is today – one that wants to strengthen the settlement blocks whilst leaving open the option of ceding some 95% (plus/minus) of the West Bank to a future Palestinian State, with one on one land exchange – under the right conditions.

That is also what a centre party stands for and a centre right party stands for.

So much for those terms having real meaning other than in some Diaspora circles.

As I predicted at the Zionist Council election analysis evening on the 31st of January, Lapid is Finance Minister (not Foreign Minister) and this at a time of rising deficits and increasingly troubled financial times handing him possibly a somewhat poisoned chalice.

His agenda is raising the middle class and “Zionising” the country.

The first of which can only be attempted via the Finance Ministry and for the second of which the Education Ministry will play a large role.

Lapid’s number 2, Rav Shai Peron (a Tzohar Rabbi), is Education Minister.

These 2 key portfolios give Lapid the opportunity to progress Yesh Atid’s main platform objectives.

Coupled with the possible ascension later this year of Tzohar Rabbi Rav David Stav to the position of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, this presents a real possibility of change within Israel and between Israel and the Diaspora on conversion, marriage et al.

Both Lapid and Rav Peron are widely respected but political novices and without even a single day’s experience in running any Government Ministry.

This provides both opportunity and challenge. How they deal with this will determine whether Lapid goes further or follows the ultimate political fate of his late father’s Shinui Party.

The real take out of this election and of this new Government, is that despite all of the criticism from Israel’s detractors, we now have a very strong consensus on both the external AND internal issues within the current climate.

This is a reality that President Obama will have to deal with as he brings his message of “tough love” to Israel in person.

Unlike in his Cairo speech, President Obama is likely to focus on the Jewish People’s connection to the Land of Israel and of the righteousness of the Zionist cause.

He will do his best to emulate President Clinton – to be accepted as a true friend whilst pushing Israel to take great risks – in this President Obama has shown that he has learned a lot after 4 years in Office.

But at the end of it all, the Israeli election, the Israeli consensus and this Israeli Government offers Bibi the opportunity to make his 3rd term one that is really outstanding.

He has the opportunity to make his true mark on history and deal with both the internal and external issues facing Israel.

Let’s hope that he can fulfil the destiny of the promise he has always held, for an even better Jewish future.

Time will tell.

Ron Weiser is the Immediate Past President of the Zionist Federation of Australia and Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.[/mpoverlay]

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