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After Bibi's bet on Romney, 'peace camp' can beat him

Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni can win the January 22 election. 

If there is one loser in the U.S. election outside the U.S., it is Benjamin Netanyahu – and all of Israel knows it. No one is fooled by his denials that he backed Romney and opposed Obama as demonstratively as he possibly could. The widespread conviction, now that Obama has won four more years in the White House, is that Bibi has endangered Israel’s relationship with America in a way that is unprecedented in its recklessness. No Israeli prime minister ever took sides in a U.S. presidential election like Netanyahu just did, and his side lost.

If Romney had won, people here would be hailing Bibi right now as a genius, a prophet. But Obama won, which makes Bibi, in Israeli eyes, a screw-up of historic magnitude. He went and tracked mud on the Oval Office carpet right in front of the president’s eyes. The president couldn’t say anything during the campaign because of American domestic politics, but the campaign’s over and now Israelis are wondering when and how this newly-liberated president is going to take revenge on them for their prime minister’s spectacular arrogance. Conclusion: The only way to get America back on our side is to get rid of Bibi.

That, I believe, is the mood in Israel on this fine morning.

It presents an opportunity, one that most people despaired seeing in the coming years, if ever – the opportunity to elect a left-of-center “peace government” on January 22. Because of Netanyahu’s awesome blunder, the Israeli right is vulnerable as it hasn’t been in 12 years, since the left’s implosion at the start of the Second Intifada. Until today, the public was ready to go along with Bibi and the status quo for lack of an attractive alternative – but now the status quo is no longer tolerable. In the view of the broad Israeli center, Bibi has to go.

Which leaves the question – who is the alternative? Not Lieberman – Obama won’t be able to stand him, either. It cannot be anybody from the right, it has to be somebody from the center, or center-left.

I don’t think Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid or the Labor Party’s Shelly Yacimovich can win because they just don’t have the requisite leadership stature, and thank God for that, too. Lapid and Yacimovich are cowards who have built their campaigns on trying to airbrush the occupation out of existence, on pretending that “there’s no left and right anymore,” that it’s all economics now. And when it comes to the Palestinians, the less said, the better. The status quo is fine with them.

It happens that the only politicians who have the leadership stature to defeat Netanyahu are also the only ones who are saying, above all, that Israel must negotiate peace with the Palestinians, and that by stonewalling Mahmoud Abbas from day one, Netanyahu turned his back on the most conciliatory Palestinian leader there ever was or ever will be, and threw away a chance for peace that may not come again.

The politicians making this case are Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Separately or together, in Kadima or in a new party, they have the potential to knock over Netanyahu in January, form a center-left coalition government, and resume the negotiations they started with Abbas in 2007, when Olmert was prime minister and Livni foreign minister, then left off at the end of 2008 when they launched Operation Cast Lead.

Because of that war and the long siege of Gaza that preceded it (which continued under Netanyahu), I have no love for Olmert or Livni. My natural inclination is to vote for Meretz. But regardless of which left-wing party one votes for, it is absolutely necessary that Olmert and/or Livni enter this election, because there must be a major party running on a peace platform, and only they can fill the bill. For all of their monstrous past abuses of Gaza and maintenance of the occupation in the West Bank, they made a very credible try at negotiating a peace agreement with Abbas, and if given another chance, it is possible they’ll succeed.

It happens that the two are expected to declare their candidacy very soon, hopefully by the end of the week. They were waiting to see if Obama won, and now the wind is at their backs.

It’s unbelievable to be writing this. Ordinarily, I would say it’s too good to be true. But in the new light of this morning, I realize it’s equally plausible to say that the last several years in Israel have been too awful to go on indefinitely. By the law of averages, things were bound to change some time. But who thought it would be this soon, and this sudden?

Of course, Bibi’s still the prime minister, and he could get reelected and everything could go on like before. But a few hours ago, when it became clear Obama had won and Bibi’s candidate had lost, an opportunity was born to change this country’s direction and give Israelis and Palestinians a future. No, the revolution did not burst upon us, but the possibility of it did.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Mitchell Cohen

      Olmert?!?! You’ve got to be kidding!!!! I would sooner vote for Dov Henkin (from Hadash) and as most posters here know by now, I am not exactly a leftist….

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        Olmert is a political cadaver (he even looks like one). He is dishonest and duplicitous, pretending to be a leftist when in fact he still prays to the ghost of Zhaboutinsky. He was convicted in a court of law, and is undoubtedly a thoroughly corrupt man. He should have gone to prison, but I’ll settle for never having to see or hear from him again in the political arena.
        .
        Livni, on the other hand, is a different case. While she is a moderate rightist, she is also relatively “clean”. No corruption in her history (at least none that has come out). Also, she’s proven that she can soundly defeat Netanyahu, and that’s a tall order. While she’s no leftist, she seems to be a pragmatist. I might vote for her, if she promised to work with Obama and the Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          Livni’s KADIMAH got ONE seat more than Netanyahu’s Likud, and the Likud’s right-wing allies got a comfortable majority, so I wouldn’t call that “soundly beating” Netanyahu. But, you can dream if you want.

          Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            ONE seat more, after Bibi was projected to run away with the election (I recall he was at +30 mandates in the polls at the time). Her performance was nothing short of dynamite, though I didn’t vote for her and wouldn’t dream of casting a vote for that sewer of a party called Kadima. Let’s hope Livni can engineer a new party in time for the elections, one that has moderates from all sides (Likud’s Eitan and Meridor come to mind) – sending Biberman even further to the right wing outskirts.

            Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      (1) Netanyahu and Lieberman have outlasted all the pressure Obama put on him in the first term, even getting to see Obama cast a veto on UN condemnation of the settlements (which must have made Obama choke to have to do it). What makes you think the same won’t happen in Obama’s second term.

      (2) Olmert and Livni failed to get an agreement with Abbas when they were in power, why do you think they will be able to if they should return to power now?

      (3) Amir Oren wrote in Ha’aretz that Shimon Peres MUST step down from the Presidency to become Prime Minister in order to “save Israel from Netanyahu”. If an 89 year old man who “very much shows his age” according to someone I know who met him a few months ago, or two failed hacks of politicians like Olmert and Livni are the Left’s best hope, then the Left is really in bad shape!

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      Bibi is wide open to challenge right now. The Likud-YB deal was stupid and will cost Bibi/Lieberman some seats regardless of what Lieberman promises. The bet on Romney has flopped and whoever rises as a serious contender to Bibi can expect some photo ops at the White House and probably some top-level political operatives at their side fresh off the Obama campaign. And in this environment it is extremely entertaining that the princes and princesses of the Likud have turned into the left’s only hope.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Nice to think there is a peace camp. Not so much in evidence recently. wonder what the folks you name might mean by “peace”.

      What would be the effect of a sea-change in USA’s policy to one which recognizes the illegal nature of the settlements, settlers, and wall and calls fro their removal?

      Would ANY part of Israel’s political sphere welcome that?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jan

      I am deeply afraid that there will be little or no change in American politicis vis a vis Israel. Obama is the titular head of the Democratic party, a party that has been bought by the Israel Lobby. If the Lobby does not want a change there will be none.

      I believe that no matter which candidate won yesterday Israel can keep on with the occupation, with its oppression of Palestinians with almost anything it wants to do.

      I also believe that is sad for both America and for Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Adam

        Jan– You are peddling an age-old conspiracy theory, which is the surest sign of a failed moral imagination. Here’s the thing about conspiracy theories– they don’t hold up to reason or logic. So here’s my question for you: if “The Lobby” owns the Democrats, why hasn’t Obama already attacked Iran? Clearly, that’s what Bibi wants, that’s what he’s openly agitated for. You would think, then, that Obama’s Zionist masters would order him to do what Bibi wants. But it hasn’t happened. Why not?

        Reply to Comment
        • The USA is almost owned by the Lobby. Its M/E policy is driven by a coalition including the Lobby and the Military-Industrial-Complex which loves selling arms to countries perpetually fearful of each other. So, for both reasons, USA supports Israel’s belligerence.

          OTOH, USA is tired of stupid major wars. so Obama resisted N’yahu’s bid for war with Iran.

          One small change: the recent election removed some pro-Israel hawks and Islamophobes and the Democratic Convention showed something approaching backbone in facing down the Lobby on the question of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital 9or some such).

          Reply to Comment
          • Adam

            Pablemont is peddling classic anti-Semtic slanders. He has no evidence for his claims, only the echos of anti-Semitic tropes. Look at the similarity between what he writes and passages from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion:

            “We must be in a position to respond to every act of opposition by war with the neighbors of that country which dares to oppose us: but if these neighbors should also venture to stand collectively together against us, then we must offer resistance by a universal war.”

            “The USA is almost owned by the Lobby. Its M/E policy is driven by a coalition including the Lobby and the Military-Industrial-Complex which loves selling arms to countries perpetually fearful of each other. So, for both reasons, USA supports Israel’s belligerence.”

            Reply to Comment
    6. Moshe

      Dream on: The Israeli voting public is composed of 40-50% religious idiots, 20% Ex-soviet Fascists, and 20% — a nondescript, violent motley crew. None of these 80-90% would care about anything but their fanatic preconceptions, and nothing on earth would ever change this.

      Reply to Comment
    7. XYZ

      More “love of humanity” of the type we have come to know from so much of the “progressive” community.

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      Jan is right.

      The Lobby is the same Lobby, American domestic politics are the same domestic politics, and Obama is still the same appeaser.

      If Israel can make any hay out of this situation, that’s fine, but don’t look to Obama to kickstart it.

      Reply to Comment
    9. [...] Mr. Netanyahu’s political opponents on the Israeli left, gloating over the failure of “Bibi’s bet on Romney,” were filled with hope that Mr. Obama might soon remind their prime minister that he had [...]

      Reply to Comment
    10. Larry, what do you think this center/left(?) government could offer Obama, and what would they want him to do? And why do you think the second Admiistration would believe what they are told?

      Obama is pragmatic; he seems to want international precedent and coalition. You have to sell him. So how do you do that?

      I think the Israeli left should give up on prayers to the American God, but maybe I am wrong. So give a point plan to convince God to hear your prayer. (I have never understood why God has to prodded into doing anything through prayer, but that is another topic).

      Reply to Comment
    11. Robert Soran

      Larry just “de-friended” me on Facebook, because I criticized his call as an Israeli to Americans to cast their vote for Obama and because I said that his initiative was IMO comparable in intent – not in public effect – with Netanyahu’s intermission into the internal affairs of an other sovereign state.

      That’s why I’m not sure if Larry would allow me to comment on this piece, in which he takes the position I took when I read his call for Obama … :-) :-(

      Larry, how comes that you have no issues in massively attacking others, but you get massively upset when somebody criticizes you in polite and moderate way?
      Thanks.
      bing@gmx.eu

      Reply to Comment
      • No, Robert, I defriended you because on a post of mine, you commented that “Israel remains a pain in the ass that has to be defecated out.”

        Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Nice analogy, Robert.

        However there is a good chance of tearing the sphincter muscle in the process, by the sharp corner of the Gaza Strip, you know.

        Reply to Comment
    12. Richard Witty

      Is an alternative happening?

      It’s just a couple months away.

      Reply to Comment
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