Bird’s Eye: Two major developments in Israel: Netanyahu ditches the far-right for the centre-right, and manages to survive without an election, and the Palestinian hunger-strikers wins most of what they wanted. We offer two reports on each.
* The Netanyahu-Mofaz Pact Uri Avnery Counterpunch
THE MASTER magician has drawn another rabbit from his top hat. A real and very lively rabbit. He has confounded everybody, including the leaders of all parties, the top political pundits and his own cabinet ministers. He has also shown that in politics, everything can change – literally – overnight.
At 2 a.m. the Knesset was busy putting the finishing touches to a law to dissolve itself – condemning half of its members to political oblivion. At 3 a.m. there was a huge new government coalition. No elections, thank you very much.
An operetta in 5 acts.
Act One: Everything tranquil. Public opinion polls show Binyamin Netanyahu in absolute control. His popularity is approaching 50%; nobody else’s even approaches 20%. The largest party in the Knesset, Kadima, sinks in the polls from 28 seats to 11, with all indications that it will continue to fall. Its new leader, former Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, gets even less points as candidate for Prime Minister. Netanyahu could sun himself on the roof of his luxury villa and contemplate the future with equanimity. All is well in the best of all Jewish states….
* New Israeli Government Likely Won’t Launch Iran Attack Juan Cole Informed Comment
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu moved from the far right to just the Right on Tuesday by bringing into his government the center-right Kadima Party, led by Shaul Mofaz.
Mofaz has been sharply critical of reported plans by Netanyahu and his defense minister Ehud Barak, to launch a go-it-alone military attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Mofaz is not opposed to military action against Iran in and of itself, but wants it coordinated with the United States. He last week aligned himself with the views of former Israel domestic intelligence head Yuval Diskin, who strongly opposed a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran and who attacked Netanyahu as erratic. Mofaz said, “Let President Obama handle Iran. We can trust him…”
Having Mofaz in the cabinet makes Netanyahu less dependent on extreme hawks, and makes it highly unlikely that Israel will act on its own against Iran.
* Many Winners, Few Losers In Deal To End Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Haaretz Daily Newspaper
The agreement that brought the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike to an end on Monday, alongside a decision to return 100 bodies of Palestinian terrorists buried in Israel, as a gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, were less about possible progress in peace attempts as much as they were about an Israeli effort to preserve the relative silence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Despite the fact that peace negotiations aren’t likely to restart, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel are all interested in getting rid of anything that could pose a threat to stability in the region. And so, while the Middle East continues burning (Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon and others), and on a day that was once considered highly likely to draw violent confrontations in the Palestinian territories, the Shin Bet and prisoner’s leadership managed to reach a deal that essentially had many winners and few losers.
The Shin Bet has emphasized their significant “achievement” in the deal: having the Palestinian prisoners sign that they will not return to terrorist activities within the prison walls. One does not need to be a security analyst to understand that despite the deal, at least some of them will repeatedly engage in terrorist activity. Their real achievement lies elsewhere: the fact they could neutralize the ticking bomb of 1,500 hunger-striking prisoners.
* In Support of the “Battle of the Empty Stomachs” Rabbi Brant Rosen
After nearly a full month of fasting, around 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners ended last night their mass hunger strike upon reaching an agreement with the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to attain certain core demands…This is heartening news to be sure, particularly for the families of the strikers. But on an even deeper level, this deal is a testimony to the astonishing moral/political power of fasting in response to oppression.
Hunger striking is, of course, is an ancient time-honored form of protest. As a Jew, I’m particularly mindful that the Book of Isaiah passionately connects the act of fasting to the pursuit of justice:
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Indeed, it is critical that we understand that the Palestinians’ “Battle of the Empty Stomachs” as part of this long and honorable tradition of nonviolent resistance. As we have seen from the events of the past several months, it has lasted so long largely because it is a tactic that works.