Get the best foreign exchange rates online - click now
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu have both claimed victory in Israel's general election and are itching to get to work dropping bombs on Gaza and annexing more of the West Bank as soon as possible.
With Livni's ruling Kadima party on 28 seats and the opposition Likud party on 27, President Shimon Peres has a difficult task in deciding which type of intransigence should be given the leadership role in the new government. There is also the issue of which paranoid, extremist right-wing parties should be allowed into the Cabinet room, and how to stop them mounting a campaign to destroy Palestinian schools once they are there.
Kadima on one hand have pledged to continue bombing Gaza until everyone is dead or displaced except Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and his pet goat, Steve. Likud's policy differs in that they want to bomb Gaza until all are dead, including Steve.
This appears moderate however compared to the policies of some of the small hard-line parties that hold the balance of power. Yisrael Beiteinu, led by the charismatically unbalanced Avigdor Lieberman, has a policy of killing everyone in Gaza, annexing the West Bank, then expelling all the Arabs from Israel itself and stealing their lunch money. But they have offered a rare concession - Steve the goat will be spared and allowed to live out his days in Tel Aviv Zoo.
Israel's complex proportional representation system means it could be many weeks before a new coalition is negotiated. In the meantime, scores of volunteers have promised to throw what ever they have over the border into Gaza to keep the conflict fresh for the new Prime Minister.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is perhaps the man most likely to get the job. His last term as PM in 1996-1999 was marked by a lack of progress in peace talks, expansion of the settlements, and it paved the way for the second intifada that began in 2000. The combination of his personal charisma and the strong support for right wing parties should mean that Israel will be experiencing his inspired leadership again very soon.
We caught up with Netanyahu at a Gaza checkpoint where he was using a catapult to fire small rocks into the territory. "This is just the warning, I'll be in charge of tanks again soon," he said with a broad grin. We asked him about his policy of expanding Jewish settlements and whether it might damage the peace process. When he finished laughing, he explained his thinking.
"You have to understand the bind I'm in. On one side you have the Palestinians demanding basic living space in the land where they were born. On the other you have Jewish immigrants from America and Russia demanding a nice flat near Jerusalem with a view of Temple Mount. I think it's clear who is more deserving of this land."
We finished by asking if he would reconsider his policy on Steve the goat. "Fuck Steve," he said, sending a sharp edged stone towards a group of elderly women foraging for food. "Fuck them all."