19/09/2008

Israel: democracy versus stability

And what had to happen, happened: here comes Tzipi Livni at the head of Kadima, and perhaps soon at the head of the State of Israel. The one that from a long time was calling for the resignation of Ehud Olmert has managed to succeed despite having been neck and neck with her competitor, Shaul Mofaz.

Good thing, bad thing? The international press likes to be optimistic unlike the skepticism of the Israeli press. Actually the election of former Foreign Minister seems to provide no solution to the situation of political crisis in Israel. Shall Tzipi Livni really call into question a policy she contributed to put in place? Few are convinced and many see early elections as the only solution.

The government crisis in Israel illustrates well the fragility of its electoral system. Upholding a perfect proportionality, it created an extremely fragmented political landscape in the Jewish state. Forced to rely on heterogeneous coalitions, the government finds itself bound and gagged. So it is rare to see an Israeli government managing to last till the end of its term.

Democracy versus stability, which one do we have to privilege? On the one hand, the interest of Israel is a democracy as representative as possible. Sixty years after its creation, the Jewish state is still working to integrate all its citizens and thus ensures that everyone can participate and be politically represented. On the other hand, greater stability on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, is essential to make the peace process going further.

It is not possible to wait until the end of the Jewish immigration to Israel and their complete assimilation in the Israeli society to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. It’s today that the peace process is requiring a government committed to peace, and in the long term.

The current political configuration doesn’t presage something good. On the one hand if Livni recreates a government with the previous three-party coalition, the government is likely to suffer the same instability. On the other hand, if the Likud comes to power, the basis of negotiations will change and have strong chance of being rejected by the Palestinian side.

The coming months will undoubtedly lay the foundations of a new political context in the Middle East: a new government in Israel, presidential elections in the United States and in a future a little more distant, change of leadership in the Palestinian Authority. Let us just hope that all these new actors will tend towards a single goal: peace.

N.J.O.