Monday, 20 April 2009

Doves should fly the nest of hawks

It became a little clearer today just what Israeli Labour leader Ehud Barak thinks hes doing forcing his party into coalition with Likud and the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party - aside from securing for himself a continued role in government as defense minister. In a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman - the leaders of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu respectively - he apparently urged the government to recognise the right of the Palestinians to their own state, but only allowing this right to be exercised if Israel's security can be guaranteed. Jam tomorrow indeed, but the hope is that this would be enough to satisfy the Obama administration in America without alienating those within the governing coalition hostile to any form of concession to the Palestians.

But it isn't enough. At a time when other countries in the region are struggling to forge the rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah into a unity government to give Isreal a meaningful negotiating partner, proving that Israel isn't such a partner itself gives entirely the wrong signals. That might well be the aim of figures in the Israeli cabinet such as Mr Lieberman, who express little desire for the peace process to succeed, but it shouldn't be the goal of Mr Barak, unless the once all-powerful Labour Party's position in the Israeli political spectrum really has lost all meaning.

Perhaps a lasting peace - following the example of Northern Ireland - can only be found when the hardliners come to the table. But Labour's presence in government doesn't make this more likely, it simply legitimises those hardliners' current intransigence. Unless Mr Barak can moderate the Israeli far-right - a seemingly impossible dream - Labour has no part in the current coalition, for even the largest concessions on negotiations he seems able to squeeze from his governing partners will simply be too small.

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