Aftenposten 2012 05 11, Kjell Dragnes
The heat has been turned up yet one more notch in what is usually a hot-tempered political debate. Opinions are divided as what the purpose of the recent Center-Right coalition really is.
Israeli politicians are not known over using kid gloves when referring to opponents and their policies. The newly created government, endorsed by the Knesset on Wednesday is no exception. Verbal attacks on PM Benjamin Netanyahu of the Conservative Likud have flourished; and even more attacks have been launched at Shaul Mofaz of Centrist Kadima.
“Mofaz has sold his soul to the devil”, Benjamin Ben Eliezer of the Labor party thundered. The leader of left wing Meretz, Zahava Gal On, attacked both. Her representation of Mofaz’ Kadima: “A rotten apple”.
Such statements are telling something about just how controversial the new grand coalition between these political opponents is; however, it also reflects on the fundamental uncertainties over to what is its purpose.
External and internal.
Is this a preparation to an Israeli attack on the Iranian’s nuclear facilities? Is it an attempt to meet the Palestinians over a deadlocked conflict? Are internal political issues, like the disputed settlements in the West Bank, changes in legislation concerning the ultra-orthodox exemption from military service behind? Are internal strife within the parties behind? Or is it simply about gaining one more year before there are new elections?
Questions and speculations abound. Mofaz has only been a leader of his party for six weeks. He is, however, an experienced politician, having served as Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense. Concerning Hamas, he is a hardliner; however, he has been consistent on his stance of not attacking Iran. The inner circle of the government is said to be divided in two camps in this question, according to Ha’aretz. Having Mofaz as a deputy PM means those against an attack are in majority, though there are fears over Mofaz changing his opinions. The establishment of a nation unity government may be interpreted as a preparation for Israeli hardships after an attack on Iran. However, this is far from being certain. Other factors, like the forthcoming US election, are indicating otherwise.
Palestinians and elections.
Internal issues may have been most important to the coalition. Netanyahu is now less dependent of smaller fringe parties; he may silence an outspoken opposition on his own part, those who are supporting the settlers. Mofaz, on his side, have red figures in opinions polls; postponing elections by one year give him sorely needed room to act.
The Palestinian leadership may also interpret the newly established government positively, though optimism may be limited, as always in the Middle East. Mofaz is an advocate of an accord with the moderate Palestinian leadership. Perhaps the best, as seen by Palestinian eyes, is the prospects of continuity and predictability in Israeli politics. We must go back all the way to 1988 in order to find a government lasting a full period. So far, however, negotiations are deadlocked.
Israel’s 88 years old president Shimon Peres is however an optimist. The distance between the Israelis and the Palestinians is actually quite small, he stated while in Canada on Yesterday. However, Peres’ influence in Israeli politics today is rather minor.
It might interest Mr. Dragnes that Mr. Peres, as the president of the State of Israel is not allowed to engage in party politics.