27/03/2009

Ehud Barak’s controversial choice

Ehud Barak won his “bet” within the Israeli Labor Party, which has agreed with his participation to the future right and extreme-right government after B. Netanyahu’s rather blurred concessions concerning peace with the Palestinians. If this agreement appears to be a victory for Ehud Barak, it could also be the death of the Labor Party. The latter was divided on Barak’s choice. The party’s young guard feels betrayed and will not be accommodating with the new government. Barak’s supporters among the Labor Party will be considered as traitors by some Labor’s voters while his opponents within the party are reluctant to split, probably for fear of being invisible in an opposition dominated by Kadima.

While for many this choice seems « against nature », the decision of Ehud Barak seems to be dictated by his desire to « stay in business » rather than by the claimed desire to promote Labor values in a right-wing government, values that the Minister of Defense seems to have put aside for long. It seems that his integration into the government constitutes a pretext for Netanyahu to please President Obama, mindful of the impact on peace of such a return of the right-wing to power. After disastrous results at the last legislative elections, the collapse of the Labor Party seems to be continuing.

Shall we consider an overhaul of the party by Labor’s “young guard”? It indeed felt betrayed by a minister of defense whose “Labor ideology” remains elusive and who is ready to sacrifice his party to his career. It is not impossible to imagine that if a reformed left-wing party, establishing a real “Labor identity” and releasing the Ashkenazi anchor that the party has always had, it could attract a portion of Kadima’s electorate. Indeed, if Kadima’s leadership mainly comes from Likud, its supporters mainly come from the left. Besides, while Israel is going to have a rightist government, in a period of global economic crisis, a left-wing party could be a voice heard by a part of the Israeli population.

Another consequence of Ehud Barak’s choice: the support of a small half of the Labor Party to the future government leads to predict many future deadlocks in the Israeli political life, deadlocks that will be amplified by the multitude of extreme-right parties that constitute B. Netanyahu’s so-called “national union » heterogeneous coalition. The head of Likud will have to deal with the perilous task to spare at the same time his Labor supporters, the new U.S. administration and the right-wing and extreme right parties.

The Government is therefore already weakened in its own creation. However, the first case it will have to deal with is Gaza, which is providing increasing embarrassment for the State of Israel now that IDF soldiers have publically spoken about their own war crimes on Palestinian civilians. Let’s see whether the new Israeli government will be strong enough to face such a challenge.

Luce Ricard