Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Netanyahu has his fig-leaf

This complicates things for the US considerably. And it also closes the casket on the two-state solution.
Labor Party Votes to Join Coalition to Form Government Led by Netanyahu in Israel -

With the narrow Right coalition that Netanyahu seemed to be building, there was a real sense of "what you see is what you get" = extremely pro-settlements, opposed to a real Palestinian state. But now the coalition will include the Labor party, the party of Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo Accords, the party that under Ehud Barak's leadership in the late 1990s was thought to be working toward a real settlement with the Palestinians and a possible Palestinian state.

Barak says that he won't be a "fig leaf" for Netanyahu and Lieberman, but that's indeed exactly what he will be. He gives Netanyahu now the cover of "centrist-left" respectability, and a former prime minister who once was thought to be a progressive of sorts in terms of Palestinian autonomy. If he's smart, Netanyahu will push him out there, front and center, every chance he gets, in hopes of softening the image of what is still going to be a very rightist regime, even with Labor on board. And any time the Obama administration wants to talk a little tougher with the Netanyahu government, Netanyahu can point to Barak and say, "hey, we're not all so right-wing on the Palestinians. You can deal with us."

But let's remember that after he was bounced out of office by Ariel Sharon in the 2000 elections, Barak - stung by his defeat as well as by Hamas suicide bombings - had a major hardening of heart toward the Palestinians. Let's also not forget that he is the current Defense Minister, under whose direction the IDF went in Gaza last December and killed hundreds of people. The man is hardly a champion for a Palestinian state.

But he does give Netanyahu a nice smoke-screen while he bolsters the West Bank settlements.

And finally, let's not forget, Barak has been one of the loudest in calling for military action against Iran. On that score, Netanyahu and he are peas in a pod. Together, they will likely double-team Obama's people. All of which make the ousting of Chas Freeman even more fateful.

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