Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good for Livni

One of my favorite leaders on the world stage right now is Tzipi Livni, the tough-minded and strong-hearted leader of the governing Kadima party. Ehud Olmert took over as a caretaker after the party's founder Ariel Sharon died fell into a coma that certainly appears permanent. He kept things together surprisingly well, but eventually he resigned, and Livni took over the top spot.

Her first job was to assemble a governing coalition in the exceedingly fractured parliament of Israel, the Knesset. And she "failed". But it's a good failure.

For any coalition in Israel, the fulcrum is the Shas party. The Shas Party is actually the third-largest in the Knesset, even outpolling Netanyahu's Likud Party in the last election (something that would not happen were another vote held). Moreover, it has had a role in the Knesset similar to that of CiU in Spain -- a willing partner in pretty much any coalition as long as it gets a piece of the action. Party representatives in the Knesset have a criminal record echoing that of American Republicans. These ideological weathervanes have jumped in bed with a diversity of partners unkown outside Hollywood. A glance over the history of Israeli coalition governments turns up the Shas repeatedly, included in 9 of the 10 previous governments. The same party had no trouble mixing with Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Benjamin Netanyahu. They played games in 19999/2000, leaving the coalition before being bribed to return. Their ultra-fundamentalist communities get special treatment, including an exemption from compulsory military service.

Livni has said no to that -- specifically, a demand to blow another $350 million on child allowances that would favor the constituents of Shas. Instead, she is willing to go to the polls for an election when polls favor her opponent Benjamin "Nuke'em" Netanyahu, rather than play Shas's confidence game one more time. This is the kind of leadership Israel needs, and I hope it will reward her.

It's not for nothing. Shas has obtained some benefits due to its easy friendship: the fruits, obtaining military exemptions and a high degree of funding for its constituents. However, it often seems to be an Israeli parasite, taking up seats in Parliament in its corrupt, often criminal electoral extortion. Good for Livni for saying no, shame on Netanyahu for saying yes. I hope the Israeli people agree.


David Eisenthal said...

A small point. Ariel Sharon is alive - though in a "persistent vegetative state."

Quriltai said...

True enough. Thanks for the reminder.