The world is barely starting to comprehend the widespread damage wrought by eight years of a right wing American administration and now a new threat to World and Middle East progress and peace arises in the form of Israel's right wing Likud and Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu נְתַנְיָהוּ "ביבי" בִּנְיָמִין.
Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel's Likud Party
Likud and Netanyahu are in favor of keeping and even expanding settlements, those new communities built by Israelis on the West Bank and in other areas that would presumably be part of an eventual new Palestinian state. As one might expect, these settlements become flashpoints for the anger of a people that have lived for the past 61 years without a state that had been promised by the UN and western powers.
Netanyahu was Prime Minister of Israel from 1996-1999 and this period he emphasized a policy of "three no(s)": no withdrawal from Golan Heights, no discussion of the case of Jerusalem, no negotiations under any preconditions (1). It is thus little surprise that his administration had no new peace accords with the Palestinians and set the tone for a downturn in relations between Israel and the Palestinians for the ensuing 10 years after a more peaceful period ushered in by Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo accords in 1992.
In April 2008, Netanyahu is quoted as saying "We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq," Ma'ariv quoted the former prime minister as saying. He reportedly added that these events "swung American public opinion in our favor." (2). Whether it is true or not, it is despicable to say this of one of the worst catastrophes in American history and it dishonors the victims of 9/11.
Some Pro-Palestinian people and groups recognize the effect that a Netanyahu administration is likely to have on Israeli-American relations. “Give us Netanyahu Please” and article in Feb 7th’s Washington Note http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2009/02/give_us_netanya/ :
As things look today, the Likud Party and its chief, Benjamin Netanyahu, look like they are about to be given a stronger hand in the coming elections. And Netanyahu is pro-settlement, and in my view the continued expansion of settlements is the most toxic activity that is undermining the negotiations process and actually, in the long term, will assure a deterioration in America's support for Israel.
The major difference between the candidates went unaddressed at Herzliya. It concerns the future of Israeli settlements, the towns and cities built and populated by Israel in the territories it gained control over in 1967 in the Six Day War. While he almost certainly would not build new settlements, Netanyahu remains unlikely, without pressure from the United States, to freeze the natural growth of existing settlements. In contrast, both Livni and Barak would probably impose a freeze on all new building beyond the Green Line. Livni and Barak recognize, however, along with Netanyahu, that the settlements are far from the fundamental obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
In fact, the more irresponsible both sides are about their situation, the more achievable a "new equilibrium arrangement" may be -- because the US and other regional stakeholders simply can't afford for the recklessness, immaturity, and sheer stupidity of leadership on all sides of the conflict to continue… Given that. Give us Netanyahu. Please… His re-ascension will help Americans realize that the false choice approach the Bush administration has been taking in Israel-Palestine affairs was flawed -- and that Obama's team must change the game or face a serious rebuke from Middle East watchers in the US and around the world.
I think the Note’s Steve Clemons is too optimistic. I think a new Netanyahu administration would result in a broader conflict in the Middle East, possibly one that would result in the release of Weapons of Mass Destruction either by Israel (nuclear) or Syria or Iran (chemical). Even if it did not come to that, I would bet the farm that a Netanyahu administration would result in a much bloodier series of confrontations between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Even if one does not care about either the Israelis or the Palestinians, at a time of global recession/depression, a more volatile Middle East and the typical resulting increase in the price of oil is something the world cannot afford. Like with an American election, it is unfortunate the world cannot have more of a voice in something that will have such far-reaching effects. I humbly beg the Israelis not to vote Netanyahu or Likud in the February 10 (Shvat 17) elections. Kadima’s Tzipi Livni ציפורה מלכה "ציפי" לבני and Labor’s Ehud Barak בָּרָק אֵהוּד and other candidates from their parties are much better choices.
Tzipi Livni of Israel's Kadima Party
Ehud Barak of Israel's Labor Party
(1) "The new alliance: Turkey and Israel " - http://www.smi.uib.no/pao/hawas.html#fn54 , Akram T. Hawas, Aalborg University
(2) Haaretz - "Report: Netanyahu says 9/11 terror attacks good for Israel "- http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/975574.html , 4/16/2008