Monday, February 9, 2009

Partisan Opinions on Israel's Elections

Here's a follow-up to my post this morning, "Israel, Terrorism, and the Well-Intentioned Left."

Caroline Glick argues that Israel's national elections tomorrow are the country's "most fateful" ever:

In late 2006, citing the Iranian nuclear menace, Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman joined the Olmert government where he received the tailor-made title of strategic affairs minister. At the time Lieberman joined the cabinet, the public outcry against the government for its failure to lead Israel to victory in the war with Iran's Lebanese proxy Hizbullah had reached a fever pitch. The smell of new elections was in the air as members of Knesset from all parties came under enormous public pressure to vote no confidence in the government.

By joining the government when he did, Lieberman single-handedly kept the Olmert government in power. Explaining his move, Lieberman claimed that the danger emanating from Iran's nuclear program was so great that Israel could not afford new elections.

But what did he accomplish by saving the government by taking that job? The short answer is nothing. Not only did his presence in the government make no impact on Israel's effectiveness in dealing with Iran, it prolonged the lifespan of a government that had no interest in forming a strategy for contending with Iran by two years.
In light of this fact, perhaps more than any other Israeli politician, Lieberman is to blame for the fact that Israel finds itself today with no allies in its hour of greatest peril. Had he allowed the people to elect more competent leaders in the fall of 2006, we might have been able to take advantage of the waning years of the Bush administration to convince the US to work with us against Iran ....

In 2006, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu took it upon himself to engage the American people in a discussion of the danger Iran poses not only to Israel but to the world as a whole. In late 2006, he began meeting with key US governors and state politicians to convince them to divest their state employees' pension funds from companies that do business with Iran. This initiative and complementary efforts by the Washington-based Center for Security Policy convinced dozens of state legislatures to pass laws divesting their pension funds from companies that do business with Iran.

Netanyahu also strongly backed the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs' initiative to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as an international war criminal for inciting genocide. Both the divestment campaign and the campaign against Ahmadinejad have been Israel's most successful public diplomacy efforts in contending with Iran. More than anything done by the government, these initiatives made Americans aware of the Iranian nuclear threat and so forced the issue onto the agendas of all the presidential candidates.

Instead of supporting Netanyahu's efforts, Livni, Barak and Lieberman have disparaged them or ignored them.

Because he is the only leader who has done anything significant to fight Iran's nuclear program, Netanyahu is the only national leader who has the international credibility to be believed when he says - as he did this week - that Israel will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Likud under Netanyahu is the only party that has consistently drawn the connection between Iran, its Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan terror proxies, its Syrian client state and its nuclear weapons program, and made fighting this axis the guiding principle of its national security strategy.

Read the whole thing (here) for Glick's criticisms of Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.

Now, compare Glick to
Glenn Greenwald:

Israel is holding its national elections tomorrow. Not only is it virtually certain that the right-wing militarist Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party will become the new Prime Minister, but it is highly likely that the ultra-right, anti-Arab nationalist and West Bank settler Avigdor Lieberman of the racist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) Party will perform scandalously well. Polls show Lieberman’s party winning between 15 to 20 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, perhaps even surpassing Israel’s Labour Party for third place and even an outside change for second place. Lieberman’s party will form a vital component of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and will secure a key Cabinet post for Lieberman himself ....

In February, 2000, Austria held a national election in which the far-right, anti-immigrant party of Joerg Haider stunned the world by attracting 26% of the vote and becoming a part of the ruling parliamentary coalition headed by the Austrian People's Party (though Haider himself had no position in the government).
This is how the United States reacted to those results:

The United States is temporarily recalling its ambassador from Vienna following the swearing in of a new coalition government that includes the far-right Freedom Party. . . .

Speaking at a news conference in Washington, Mrs Albright said: "We have decided to limit our contacts with the new government and we will see whether further actions are necessary to advance our support for democratic values."

The U.S. wasn’t the only country to punish Austria for this outcome:

Israel has recalled its ambassador and has announced that Joerg Haider, the party's figurehead, will not be allowed into the country.

"Israel cannot remain silent in the face of the rise of extremist right-wing parties, in particular in those countries which played a role in the events which brought about the eradication of a third of the Jewish people in the Holocaust," a foreign ministry statement said.

The Haider/Lieberman comparison isn’t perfect. Haider had made a handful of stray reprehensible comments which were anti-Semitic or even sympathetic to former Nazi Party members, but the platform on which he actually ran had nothing to do with that. It was the standard nativist, anti-immigrant cant sweeping much of the European Right at the time. Arguably, though, Lieberman’s Arab-hating bile is even worse. Whereas Haider, an Austrian citizen, was demonizing foreign immigrants seeking to enter the country, Lieberman himself is an immigrant to Israel and is demonizing citizens who have been Israelis far longer than he has.

The U.S. already pays a very substantial price for its decades-long, blind and one-sided support for Israeli actions. The New York Times yesterday published an Op-Ed from Alaa Al Aswany -- an obviously pro-Obama, pro-American Egyptian describing the pervasive anger in Egypt that has already arisen towards Obama as a result of his deafening silence on the Israeli attack on Gaza ....

If, as it appears, the face Israel is now choosing for itself is that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, then the cost to the United States of ongoing, one-sided support for Israel is going to skyrocket, and the need for serious change in U.S. policy towards Israel will be even more acute.
Now, readers can behold the contrast between a neoconservative commentator - Glick - and a far-left progressive/civil libertarian commentator - Greenwald - and judge for themselves.

Glick opposes Lieberman on political and policy grounds, and sees him as weakening Israeli national security. She supports Netanyahu because he's made the most successful "public diplomacy efforts in contending with Iran."

In contrast,
Greenwald attacks Lieberman as a "far-right extremist," portraying his positions as analogous to Austria's neo-Nazi Freedom Party. To top it off, Greenwald used the methodology of guilt-by-association to impugn the credibility of Benjamin Netanyahu, who may well form a governing coaltion with Lieberman.

This hysterical smear is then used as a basis for the United States to repudiate the Israeli government.

Now, recall
this morning's post, where Gary Novak asked, "At what point do those who participate in the normalization of evil cease to be useful idiots and become evil themselves?"

Consider Greenwald's post a test-case for Novak's query.

4 comments:

shoprat said...

It's a sad state of affairs when you are declared an extremist for wanting to protect your people.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Shoprat!

Norm said...

Yes, Greenwald is evil. But I don't care about Greenwald, he is just a tiny pimple on an elephant's rear end. The bottom line is that he wants to see the State of Israel destroyed. I have no clue what he expects to see in its place, perhaps an Islamic state

It will not make a difference who wins the election in Israel. Israel's tomorrow will be affected by events outside of its control.
The question is whether or not Iran continues its quest to destroy Israel? So maybe Israel's future is up to the Iranian voter, not the Israeli voter.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Norm. I don't like to attack people as evil, but I agree that's what Greenwald is.