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Israeli Shake-up Conforms with the Public Will

By Bruce S. Ticker  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Two nations. Two ideological shake-ups. Two different political solutions.

The solution in Israel is working so far. In the style of justice-delayed-justice-denied, the solution in the United States is flailing.

Ariel Sharon touched off an anticipated sequence of events which could leave Israel with a sane and stable governing coalition for some time. Americans are stuck with at least one more year of control by a lunatic-driven government that has already torn into a social fabric which has served the United States well.

The difference is that Israel has the capacity and a groundswell of popular support to form a third party, likely to be centrist, which can send its village idiots to the sidelines. The chief village idiot in my country will likely remain in the White House for another three years.

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Sharon 's announcement on Monday that he will leave the Likud Party to form the new party was branded "a political earthquake of unprecedented magnitude " by Yediot Aharonot, Israel 's most popular daily newspaper. When I viewed the tail end of the prime minister 's news conference Monday, I heard a reporter ask Sharon how he feels about taking this risk. He shrugged off the question.

If an earthquake figures in Israeli politics at all, it came about some time in the last two or three years. If anything, Sharon 's decision to form a new party could best be described as an aftershock. The political changes are merely conforming to the public will.

What has transpired is more like a slow, steady rumble that is taking its natural course. A commentary which I read several months ago suggested that many of Israel 's hawks have moved left and most of its doves have moved right, converging somewhere in the center. Many of those who supported the Clinton-era peace process wonder how there can be a peace partner when Israel has been under siege for the last five years. Many on the right recognize that protecting vulnerable settlements has grown into a fool 's errand.

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They now concur on this: Israel is under attack, and to defend itself effectively Israel must defend itself sensibly.

Back in America, I recognized that President Bush is dangerous after a month of observing him as a candidate during the 2000 Republican primaries. My conclusion was no act of genius, so I still question why it took the majority of my fellow Americans nearly six years to comprehend what should be readily obvious to any reasonable person.

The vast majority of Americans have finally figured out that Bush and his Republican allies in Congress are driving this country into the ground. Polls and news accounts aside, two men who voted for Bush in both elections told me at a family affair that they now acknowledge the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, Bush should go and a third party should be created. On C-Span, a caller from a Republican community in New York state reported that an "Impeach Bush " button which he wears was previously greeted with glares; now it elicits an occasional thumbs up.

The citizenry of each country devised far different political responses. Sharon 's decision to form the new party is merely a reaction to the public will and a strategy for his own political strategy. It is likely he would risk more if he stayed with Likud. Yes, if Likud members kept him as their leader and he ran as their standard-bearer, he would have a good chance of getting re-elected. Who knows? Yet Amir Peretz, the new leader of Labor, could very catch fire and paint Likud as too extreme no matter who its leader might be.

Creation of a centrist party is one of those cases in which a moderate party would have had to be invented. The public is clearly in the center. It was Likud that produced the conditions - namely, construction of the settlements - that made the conflict with the Palestinians worse than it needed to be. Labor has been clueless too long and Peretz has no track record in office. It is feared that he may give away too much to the Palestinians.

Israel 's right wing was sidelined ideologically when the settlements in Gaza were dismantled in mid-August. It looks like the right wing will be sidelined politically when early parliamentary elections are held on March 28.

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If current signals pan out, Israel will likely be run by a coalition government dominated by Labor and Sharon 's new party, dubbed "Forward. " It would blend liberal and moderate concerns which usually form the backbone of most normal societies. It was such a combination that governed America for nearly a half-century, starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt 's first presidential term and ending with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, when the right wing seized control of the Republican Party which in turn controlled much of our federal policies for the last 25 years.

Multiple polls suggest that Forward could take more than 30 seats and Labor 25 seats, which is six seats short of a majority, and Likud will be lucky to hold onto 15 seats.

Americans are taking things slowly. We must wait a year for the Democratic bid to retake control of the House and/or Senate to end Republican domination of, well, everything. The United States has a foundation comparable to that of Israel for a viable third party. There are many moderate Republicans who can join with the more conservative Democrats to form a third party.

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