Elections have consequences, at least in countries other then the United States. In Israel, for example, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggles to put together a government several weeks after the Israeli election, there are signs of movement on the part of the next Israeli government. Future policy may be less hostile towards the Palestinians then seemed remotely possible before the election. Indeed, with concerted pressure by the Obama Administration. for the first time in 13 years, the Israeli government may be willing to provide the Palestinians with an actual partner for peace. Follow me beyond the orange cloud to find out what this may mean.
The election has changed, well, I wont say everything, but quite a bit. It's the numbers. Where before, the separate right wing parties of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu had 42 out of the 120 Knesset seats, now, running a coordinated campaign, the alignment has only 31. Meanwhile, a new, centrist and strongly non-secular, pro peace party,Yesh Atid, won 19. That result,combined with the center-left Labor party's increase from 8 to 15 and the increase in the dovish Meretz party from 3 to 6 means that the center of gravity in the new Knesset is more center right then extreme right.
Already, two significant developments have occurred because of the election. First, according to the Israeli paper Haaretz, which, unfortunately, charges for almost all of its content, the next government will offer a settlement freeze in areas outside its main settlement blocks. While I very much agree with President Obama's insistence on a total settlement freeze in the first year of his presidency, and believe his failure to achieve this policy objective by putting any meaningful pressure on Israel was his biggest foreign policy mistake of his first term, a partial settlement freeze is the best one can hope for in light of the Administration's continuing skittishness in pressuring Israel. At any rate, it will be enough to restart the peace talks.
The second significant consequence is that thepro-settlement ultra ultra religious parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism apparently will be absent from the government. This is potentially extremely important as already the parties likely to make up the non-Likud-Beiteinu part of the coalition government are talking about limiting the funds that go into housing subsidies for the settlements. Defunding the settlement blocs over the long term will go a long way to draining the swamp that Israeli politics has become.
I am not saying that all is well in Israeli politics; far from it. Ominously, one of the new governmental parties that will replace the settlement oriented religious ones is the rightist Bayit Yehudi. Surely, it will oppose any real concessions that Netanyahu may want to make. Ultimately, for there to be real progress in correcting the anti-peace policies of the Israeli government, the United States will have to apply much more pressure then Obama has yet had the stomach for. Yet, the fact that the political composition of the Knesset has changed means that there is now enough support there that such pressure will bear fruit
cross posted at theprogressivereporter.blogspot,com
Sun Mar 17, 2013 at 6:10 AM PT: In the couple weeks since I wrote this, events have proven Charlieball2 below to be correct and I am wrong. The election results, with the formation of the Government, is going to make peace harder. In fact, there will be nothing like peace with this government.