The Unholy Alliance: Labor in a Likud-Led Government

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On February 26, 2001, Israeli Labor Partys Central Committee voted by a two-thirds majority to join a unity government under the leadership of Likuds Ariel Sharon.

Despite serious reservations and outright dissent by such Labor leaders as Shlomo Ben-Ami, Yossi Beilin, Abraham Burg (among ot Gle), it appears that Israels moderate forces (let alone peace camp) have opted for their docile cooption and self-negation.

Having accepted a junior partner role in Sharons right-wing government, Labor has abandoned any claims to a higher moral ground and has become complicit in Sharons blood-drenched past and warmongering present.

Thus it presented Sharon and his crew with the badly needed fig leaf to present themselves before the world as presentable within civilized society. Extremism has therefore become an acceptable norm.

Shimon Peres, no less, has been selected (or has self-elected) to do the dry-cleaning job as foreign minister in a government that does not bode well for Israel, the region, or for peace as a whole.

Just as lethal is the notion of appointing a Labor minister of defense to carry out the dirty work of the Sharon government.

Forming close to one-third of this right-wing government, Labor has thus been recruited as apologists for the opposition and an instrument of its repression a role no self respecting moderate party would have contemplated, let alone fought for.

The Israeli public thus finds itself instantly deprived of an honest and active opposition to seek as an alternative or as a corrective force when the extremists go on the rampage or wreak havoc within Israel society and the region.

Democracy in Israel has been dealt yet another blow by those who had claimed to be its most vociferous proponents.

Peace has been dealt a fatal blow by those who had claimed to seek it.

The real question is whether this is the true face of Labor or another depth to which it had plummeted.

Having built more settlements than any previous government, and having resorted to more bloodshed and brutality against the Palestinians than any other right- or left-wing party, labor is now crowning its achievements with this unholy (though not entirely surprising) alliance.

As had been the case with all Likud-led coalition governments, the left will be marginalized or neutralized and the whole political discourse will shift to the right.

The consensus position will be formulated by the extreme political right in conjunction with the fundamentalist religious elements, but will gain a hearing as articulated by the left.

Those who claim that such an alliance will curb the right wing and save the prospects for peace are, at best, guilty of self-delusion. At worst, they have placed their personal self-interest above those lofty objectives that they claim to serve.

A cosmetic Labor might be more delusional than a party suffering from the intoxication of power.

It might contribute to the longevity of this right wing government, but it will simultaneously fragment its own ranks.

Perhaps this is what Labor really needsa painful opportunity to put its own house in order by sifting its own membership and reformulating its future policies.

As Palestinians, we have never suffered from the illusion that Labor is Gods gift to peace or is a Palestinian ally.

However, a peace engagement could have served to educate the peace camp in Israel and to raise its awareness of the requirements of a genuine peace, thus shedding its preconceived and inherited notions of an imposed peace by dictate or coercion.

Having missed this opportunity, Labor resorted to the harshest punitive measures and the most violent means of repression, while indulging in a willful exercise of blaming the victim and Palestinian bashing.

Instead of drawing the proper conclusions, Labor embraced Likud and opted for further schizophrenic politics.

Perhaps the time has come for Labor to look within, to indulge in a genuine exercise of self-examination, and even to fragment in order to regroup on a clear and sound peace policy.

Perhaps the current opportunism and loss of bearings is a necessary step towards a more honest reformulationliberated from the legacy of occupation and patronizing domination.

Ultimately, the panic of the Israeli public will subside, and (it is hoped) more rational minds will prevail once the dust settles and they realize the futility of maintaining occupation and seeking security or of negating Palestinian rights and seeking peace.

When that happens, maybe there will be a few honest and brave individuals who will present themselves as genuine candidates for a real peace camp.

Until then, we can only hope that this unholy alliance will not do irreparable damage to the chances of peace within both Israel and Palestine.

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