Happy birthday. It's a year since the elections. Today, exactly one year ago, we woke up to new hope. So what has happened since, for good or bad? Is this a successful government, or a failure? Is Benjamin Netanyahu good for the Jews or bad for the Jews? It seems that the only possible objective answer depends on one's personal, partisan, or special interest perspective.
There is not even a clear and general answer as to who are the winners and losers.
Benjamin Netanyahu is the winner of the year. He is strengthening in polls, he heads a stable government, balanced between left and right and between religious and secular. The economy has stabilized, unemployment is easing, there is security calm, and even US President Barack Obama has gotten off his back.
On the other hand, Netanyahu is stuck between left and right, with one hand handcuffed to Minister of Defense and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak and the other to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman.
Future growth and emergence from unemployment depends on global economic recovery. Obama's antipathy toward Netanyahu is only deepening, and he will soon attack in full strength, linking relations with Iran to relations with Netanyahu. Israel's international PR is on the ropes, the comparison of Israel with South Africa's former Apartheid regime is taking hold and growing, and the government has no response.
The price that Netanyahu is paying for keeping the interests of Barak, Lieberman and Minister of Interior and Shas party chairman Eli Yishai is too expensive and too dangerous, on both the foreign and domestic fronts, for the future. Netanyahu's media conduct is modest, he doesn’t chatter about his opinions, but into this media vacuum enters his wife, Sarah, with all her adventurousness. So, Netanyahu yes, or Netanyahu no?
Ehud Barak - winner or loser? He is isolated in the Labor Party, politically powerless, and his MKs laugh to his face. He is contrarian, likes to fight, and he is surrounded by a power-grabbing and egoistic junta that gets him in trouble about everything. He survives only thanks to Netanyahu and Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini.
If Barak's enemies choose, they will eliminate politically within a day, Netanyahu from the outside, and Eini from within.
On the other hand, Barak is a highly admired minister of defense. He is the only man whom the public relies, the man who will lead the IDF against enemies near at hand and against Iran from afar. Despite his isolation, his chair at the head of the Labor Party, which was shaky at the beginning of the year, is now steady. The Labor Party rebels, who had planned to bolt and set up a new left-wing party and topple Barak, have scattered.
Avigdor Lieberman is a discordant diplomatic disaster on one hand, but a superstar on the other. He is doing exactly what is expected of him, and what was planned: upsets and upheavals. That is his power, and while he is far from the world's presidential palaces and decision-makers, he is winning more and more domestic political power. In the next elections, he could head Israel's second largest party, and if he succeeds in passing the bill to give voting rights to Israelis abroad, he could even become the largest party. As far as he is concerned, let the ridicule, kicks, language, and tone continue.
Eli Yishai is playing the game. He worked as hard as could for early elections, refused to join a government with Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni because he was afraid that if elections were held on schedule, he would find himself being dragged behind the returning charismatic Aryeh Deri. So Yishai caused the elections to be brought forward, and ensured himself four more years of Deri-less quiet. On the other hand, the power of rising star Minister of Housing and Construction Ariel Atias is growing and threatening Yishai's position.
There are only two political figures about whom the political conversation is unanimous: Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres.
A year ago, Tzipi Livni won the elections and began to think that she was Queen Elizabeth II. She has since fallen, ashen-faced and disappointed to the point of fading away altogether.
Shimon Peres is the biggest winner in history. As of this year, he is the most influential of men. He is the super-authority on defense, diplomacy, partisan politics, and morals. Each week, Netanyahu and Barak make pilgrimages to consult with him. One for dinner, and the other for breakfast. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and all defense officials pop over for advice from Peres' experience. They were all Peres' sons.
Peres is Israel's real foreign minister and national representative, meeting, dealing, and closing ties with the world's leaders. The glasses of wine toasted at the frequent international meetings he attends are not merely matters of honor and dignity; Peres gets down to business about the Palestinians, the Syrians, and the Iranians. War and peace - Father Shimon.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 11, 2010
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2010