Friday, March 20, 2009

"Wait a Minute"

Arlene Kushner

I've seen it in a variety of different places with changeable climate (Calgary comes to mind as one): natives of the area say, "You don't like our weather? Wait a minute, it'll change."

Right now that's about how I'm feeling with regard to reporting on the process of forming a new coalition here. Don't like what I told you now? Wait a minute, the news will change.I will be brief here in my reportage, precisely because everything is up in the air:

After saying he would not be seeking an extension, Netanyahu has decided to seek one. On Sunday, when his time will be up (according to a Mazuz ruling), he will be asking President Peres for two more weeks to form his coalition, as he is permitted to do under law.

This is because of Barak, whom he approached again (with the two men having come to some private understanding). Apparently, it was said, Labor would be unable to meet until next Tuesday to decide about whether to join. There was some indication that Barak might convince his party -- some reason for Netanyahu to delay.

But since that indication was made public, I waited a minute, and now there is indication of enormous resistance to Barak's hauling Labor into the coalition. So much resistance that there is talk of holding a primary and replacing him as head of the party. There is fury inside the party about Barak's manipulations.

And what is more, there may be some legal technicality that prevents a decision on this. The Labor by-laws may forbid a convening of the Central Committee in sufficient time. It apparently takes three weeks, and that's more time than Netanyahu has.

Those who are adamantly against joining the coalition are insisting that the party constitution cannot be "trampled with." But wait a few more minutes and we'll see what comes next. The issue of making Barak defense minister again is being bandied about.

In the meantime, Netanyahu had better be continuing his negotiations with the outstanding four parties on the right with great intensity, so that he will, at least, have a right wing coalition at the end of the day. The coalition agreement with Lieberman stipulated that there might be changes if a unity government is established, and he would presumably do this across the board.


Does it pay to say it? Don't know. But I must: This is not how it should be. We are facing a world that is increasingly against us. For starters, the parties on the right should be cooperating for the sake of the nation. And even on the left, were that there were less divisiveness. Either way, whether Labor joins or not, there will be tensions within the party that generates turmoil.

But that is human nature. And at times such as this, I feel sad: We should have had a new government already. One established in cohesiveness and strength, for the larger goals. Ha!


On the other hand, I'm pleased about dissension between Palestinians, for their unity would do us no good.

The Hamas-Fatah talks have broken down. The only thing they agreed upon is that there would be elections next January. But they couldn't decide upon a program for a joint government.

And the whole issue of recognizing Israel and honoring past agreements was a stickler. How's this for fancy footwork (they are creative): Instead of committing to past agreements, Hamas wanted the new unity government to say it "respected" PLO commitments. Words only.

But dangerous words. According to the Post, earlier this week Egypt sounded out the US and European diplomats regarding whether they would accept a unity government that offered something less than full commitment to PLO agreements. Apparently they would not, or the negotiations would not have ended so soon.

Today the Egyptian negotiators told the Palestinian factions to pack their backs. They may come together again after an Arab summit at the end of March. But possibly not until there's reason to believe there can be resolution of the difficulties, which would mean a long wait.


And there was another failure to reach an agreement this week.

A meeting of European parliamentarians was held on Tuesday in Paris as part of a forum launched by the Middle East subcommittee of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly to facilitate the peace process without interfering in negotiations.

MK Danny Ayalon (Israeli Beiteinu) was there on behalf of the Knesset, while Palestinian MP Abdullah Abdullah (Fatah) represented the Palestinian Legislative Council. They failed to agree upon a joint declaration aimed at promoting peace and cooperation.

The Palestinians wanted a clause that said a settlement would be based on pre-67 lines, and the Israelis rejected it.

Do the European parliamentarians not see something significant in this?


According to the Washington Post, Obama today abandoned a proposal to bill veterans' private insurance companies for treatment of combat-related injuries. This was in response to public and Congressional outcry. (Thanks, Bob H.)


Now to Durban 2: When the US delegation pulled out, they didn't make it final, but instead made noise about the fact that they might reconsider if the wording of the declaration were changed.

Well, now there has been some change in the wording but the situation remains very troublesome. What was dropped were recently added references to Israel that went beyond what had been in the text that was adopted in the 2001 conference.

Thus the changes are political/cosmetic only. For the draft text for the second conference, to be held in Geneva next month, states in its first paragraph that it affirms that first document from 2001, which was virulently anti-Semitic. As has been previously explained by analysts such as Anne Bayefsky, this conference must affirm the first document, for it is being convened to oversee enactment of the principles of the first conference.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Roni Leshno-Yaar explains:

"We have come full loop and we are back to square one, where we reaffirm and single out Israel as a racist state.

"What we have gone through is that the Iranians and their friends...loaded the draft document with all kinds of paragraphs and then removed them, hoping we would forget that ancient thing, which is back in full force in the first paragraph."


Writes Bayefsky:

"The new draft is a textbook example of diplomatic double-talk. Diplomats often couch objectionable outcomes in superficially unobjectionable language, using a tool that lawyers call 'incorporation by reference.' Don't repeat the offensive words in the new document; just include them by referring to another document where they can be found -- and which most people won't bother to read."

There is no indication at this time that the US delegation will return, but this is what must be watched carefully.

Bayefsky says that one of the conditions set out by the Obama administration for renewed participation was that the Durban 2 declaration, "not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration." But indeed it does reaffirm it in toto.

See her entire article at:


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