It's impossible to understand why anyone who literally wasn't born yesterday would get excited about the new Likud-Kadima coalition forged by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Of course, the coalition is great news for the members of the new coalition (94 out of the 120 Knesset members). Politicians love staying in office and don't enjoy facing the voters and this deal puts off the next election until 2013. For Netanyahu, this arrangement is a big win. Stable coalitions are rare in Israel and this one looks to be as stable as any in Israel's history.
But what is there to be excited about?
Some say that an Israeli attack on Iran is less likely because Mofaz is less hawkish on Iran than Netanyahu and that appears right.
But an attack on Iran was looking less and less likely anyway. Moreover, it can be assumed that Netanyahu would not have joined with Mofaz unless he had a commitment (probably in writing) that his new partner would back him should he decide to attack. Also, with 94 Knesset members in his new coalition, Netanyahu has the support to do whatever he wants to Iran -- with one giant caveat. It is the United States that can tie his hands, not other Israeli politicians, which appears to be what is happening.
On Palestinian issues, there is little difference between Netanyahu and Mofaz. Although Mofaz emphasizes the urgency of an agreement with the Palestinians, and is more forthcoming than Netanyahu about territorial withdrawal, his record as Minister of Defense shows him to be utterly brutal in dealing with Palestinians.
Nonetheless, some ever-optimistic doves see the possibility known, in abbreviated form, as Nixon/China.
Once President Richard Nixon was confident about his political future he threw over his old allies on the right and pursued the normalization of relations with China. In fact, he stood the world on its head by actually going to China, a scenario impossible to imagine until Nixon did it.
The Nixon/China analogy fails with Netanyahu for one reason: Nixon wanted to go to China. Netanyahu does not want to end the occupation or reduce tensions with Iran.
If Nixon had spent his first three years in office demonstrating unrelenting hostility to China, he would not have been able to make his historic trip. Instead, quietly, he laid the groundwork.
Netanyahu? Come on.
Looking at it from the other side, there is nothing that earth-shaking either. Writing in the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria says that Israel is "now stronger than ever."
That view is also common in right-wing circles. Netanyahu is now the master of all he sees. And with him, Israel itself.
This might be true in some other time when nations were isolated from developments in other countries. The United States, separated by two oceans from Europe, was relatively isolated from the wars of the "Old World" until after World War 1. Obviously, FDR's United States was very much affected by events far away, which has been the case ever since.
As for Israel, its future (and its present) is affected by decisions made by Palestinians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Syrians, and Jordanians, (to name a few). Then there is Hamas and Hezbollah, and even Fatah.
Those are just the Arabs. Add the Iranians and Turks to the mix and it becomes even more clear that those who think a cosmetic change in Israel's government makes it "stronger than ever" are either blowing smoke or are just putting out the safe conventional wisdom.
No, it is not 1938 or 1942 as Prime Minister Netanyahu loves to say, and thank God for that. But neither is Israel some secure outpost that can continue to do whatever it wants, to whoever it chooses, whenever it wants to.
It has exactly one friend in the world and exactly two peace treaties with its neighbors (the more important of which, the peace treaty with Egypt, looks to be on its death bed).
Rather than pat himself on the back for creating a strong coalition, Netanyahu should strive to create a strong Israel. That, however, would require peace. And peace requires ending the occupation. That will not happen under this prime minister.
The new coalition is of no significance whatsoever.
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