Saturday, January 17, 2009

POWER WITH MALAYSIAKINI: Gaza War and Israeli Election

War is not always about settling score, or for territorial enlargement. The prime purpose for a bloody war may just lay hidden in shreds of history and misery. Lets share with Malaysiakini, the bloody war of Gaza as the Israeli Election is looming near.

Corridors of Power
Israeli Election

Roland Flamini
16 Jan 2009

-- Even with the faint prospect of a ceasefire in the offing, there is talk of postponing Israel's Feb. 10 national elections. For one thing, none of the parties has been campaigning; the public has been distracted (though not unduly dismayed: a recent poll showed only 10 percent of Israelis are against the Gaza incursion, and 82 percent believe Israel has not "gone too far"); and then there is the rather pious argument that a postponement would prevent resolution of the conflict from becoming a political issue.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is flying to Washington this weekend to sign a hastily arranged deal for new surveillance equipment for the Israeli-Gaza border. The Israelis insist on this as a component of any ceasefire agreement. But even if the fighting ended next week, it would still leave precious little time to gear up for an election. Even Labor leader and defense minister Ehud Barak, whose popularity has blossomed as a result of the Israeli offensive, may not want to rush to the polls.

A survey by the newspaper Haaretz forecasts 16 Knesset seats for Labor in the election, up from an estimated six seats before the fighting started in November. But the overall picture is not that good for the comeback kid of Israeli politics, and he may want campaign time to consolidate his lead. As things now stand, it's Likud opposition leader Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu who would be able to cobble up a conservative alliance of 62 Knesset seats, leaving the center-left Livni-Barak partnership able to muster only 56. The snag for Netanyahu: his government would be one of those typical Israeli crazy-quilt pastiches that will be difficult to manage -- and probably short-lived.

-- Meanwhile, many Israelis have been taken aback by the vehemence of Turkish leaders in attacking the Gaza operation. To be sure, censuring Israel for the Gaza fighting has not been restricted to its enemies. But to Israelis, the declarations of Turkey's moderate Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have gone beyond censure. Having already said that God will punish Israelis by hastening their self destruction for violating "the rights of the innocent" in Gaza, Erdogan on Thursday called for Israel to be barred from the United Nations because it had ignored a resolution calling for a halt in the Gaza fighting.

It was not always thus: In the 1990s Israel and Turkey -- a NATO member with aspirations to join the European Union -- built a strong bilateral relationship, initially based on weapons deals, but branching out to trade and cultural exchanges. For example, Israel has an ongoing 20-year deal to receive 1.75 billion cubic feet of water from Turkey, paid for partly by Israeli weapons. Well into the 2000s, Israel was still a significant source of hi-tech weapons for Turkey, which enhanced bilateral military ties.

More recently, however, Erdogan has edged away from friendship with Israel, improving relations with Syria and Iran. That's understandable. After all, they are Turkey's neighbors. But Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal isn't, and in 2006, Erdogan gave him the full VIP treatment in Ankara. What is perceived as Turkey's new ambivalence about Israel is doubtless part of that country's internal struggle between its secular identity and Islamic pressure. But many see it as an early sign of Turkey's drift away from its earlier European aspirations.

[Corridors of Power: Israeli Elections,
World Politics Review ]