Monday, April 24, 2006

A view from the House of Lords

A letter to the times last week:

Hamas choice

Sir, Lord Wright of Richmond, (letter, April 11), in his plea for the EU and the US to reconsider their position on Hamas, fails to mention the offer, made a number of times, by Ehud Olmert to the Palestinians to negotiate the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank. Providing, of course, that Hamas do not come to the negotiating table with the demand that Israel should be destroyed.

In the absence of that precondition, and in the continued rocket attacks on Israel and suicide bombing attempts, Israel will be forced into trying to define borders which offer it security. This plan will see withdrawal from 97 per cent of the West Bank. The offer to Israel, the size of Wales, by the Arab League, the size of Europe, that they might consider recognising Israel’s existence is hardly magnanimous and takes no account of the attitude of Hamas on its doorstep.

Lord Wright suggests that the British experience in dealing with the Mau Mau and Eoka should encourage talk with terrorists. The critical difference for Israel is that its very existence is threatened, which was hardly the case for the UK. The prospect for peace between Israel and the Palestinians will be entirely dependent on the two parties entering negotiations, but not under the threat that one party intends the destruction of the other.

LORD TURNBERG House of Lords

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Call to Europe

The Israeli Peace Groups published the following advertisement in the Israeli press over passover. It is forwarded to us by Gush Shalom.

We, Israeli patriots concerned about the future of our state, hereby call upon you, the leaders of the European Union and the heads of European governments:

Stop the blockade on the Palestinian government! Don't starve a whole people in order to overthrow its elected government!

Only three months ago, European monitors supervised the Palestinian elections. They confirmed Palestine as the first democracy in the Arab world (holding its second democratic elections, the first having been won by the Fatah movement.)

This time, a Parliament with a Hamas majority was elected. Now you are giving the Palestinians a lesson in democracy: you are telling them that, unless they overthrow the government they have just elected, there will be no milk for their children, no medicines for their sick, no work for their unemployed, no salaries for their doctors and teachers.

You are fulfilling the cynical prescription of the advisor to our Prime Minister: "We need to make them lose weight, but not to die."

This is not only a barbaric policy, it is also a terrible mistake: no people in the world would submit to such brutal and humiliating pressure from outside. The inevitable result will be a further radicalization of Palestinian opinion, and a deepening of the hatred for Israel and the West in the whole of the Arab and Muslim world.

That will make the prospect of peace even remoter, the peace we all need like air to breathe. It will lead to a bloodbath, which will cost the lives of thousands - Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans and Americans.

Talk to the Palestinian government!

Start a dialogue with Hamas!

Certainly, they must recognize the State of Israel's right to exist, just as Israel must recognize the right of the State of Palestine to exist. But such recognition will grow out of negotiations, not the other way round. Certainly, they have to stop violence, just as Israel must do so. But even at this stage a prolonged armistice can be achieved.

Certainly, they must accept the Two-State solution, and so must Israel. But their leaders have already hinted that they are ready for it - and this must be put to the test of negotiations.

We call upon you, leaders of Europe:

It is in the interest of Europe, as it is in the interest of Israel and Palestine, to achieve peace. Don't succumb to pressure from outside interests, whose policy has already led to several recent disasters in the Middle East.

For the sake of all of us: follow an independent line, guided by wisdom and morality!

GUSH SHALOM The Israeli Peace Bloc
P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 * *

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Op-ed: Last Chance for Two States

This is posted by William:

We have recieved a note from the Palestinian Authority's Negotiations Support Unit. It is dated 19th April and runs as follows:

This morning The Guardian published the following op-ed by Prof. Manuel Hassassian, the PLO representative to the United Kingdom. The op-ed can also be accessed online on our homepage:

Kind regards,

Communications Dept.
Negotiations Support Unit.

Last chance for two states

Negotiation rather than unilateralism is the way out of the spiralling Israeli-Palestinian crisis

Manuel HassassianWednesday April 19, 2006. The Guardian Newspaper

Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv rightly drew international condemnation, yet criticism of Israel's relentless shelling of civilian population centres in the occupied Gaza Strip has been blocked by the US at the UN security council. This month alone, Israeli forces have killed more than 30 Palestinians, including at least six children, and injured 130 others, while about 200 shells have been fired into the Gaza Strip every day.

While prominent members of the international community call on Hamas to make statements in support of a two-state solution, their own policies are rapidly foreclosing that option. Following Hamas's accession to the Palestinian Authority, the EU and the US seem more intent on punishing the Palestinians for the results of their exemplary elections than on persuading Israel that peace and security will only materialise through negotiated political accommodation.

Ostensibly, the US-led decision to cut funding to the PA is designed to penalise Hamas for failing to renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and publicly commit to previously-signed agreements. But this approach is certain to backfire. One million of the estimated 3.8 million Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories rely on PA salaries for their livelihoods. Impoverishing and embittering our people will not only exacerbate the existing humanitarian predicament, it will likely worsen the security crisis for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

The real threat lies not in the rhetorical positions of the PA - an institution with limited powers administering a stateless people under occupation - but in Israel's deluded faith in unilateralism. Now rebranded as Ehud Olmert's "convergence plan", unilateralism still translates as the sustained colonisation and occupation of Palestinian land.

It is true that Olmert intends to dismantle some failed settlements in the occupied West Bank, but only so as to bolster the more strategic blocs. This would entrench, not solve, the problem. As Israel's illegal settlement and wall construction on occupied Palestinian land continues, the possibility of establishing a viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state is being destroyed.

To the east of the wall, Israel still insists on retaining control of the Jordan Valley, more than a quarter of West Bank land. To the west of the wall, Israel intends to annex areas that are essential to Palestinians for their fertile lands, water resources and economic potential - most notably areas in and around East Jerusalem. Allowing Israel to seize this 9.5% of West Bank territory would alone defeat the viability of a Palestinian state. And without a viable Palestinian state, there can be no viable peace.

This looming tragedy is further compounded by its needlessness. Contrary to Israel's claims to be bereft of a partner, it is the Palestine Liberation Organisation, not the PA, that represents Palestinians in final status negotiations. The results of January's Palestinian elections alter neither the PLO's mandate nor its desire to resume negotiations with Israel immediately. Hamas itself publicly supports the resumption of talks. And despite Israeli shells raining down on his Gaza Strip compound, Mahmoud Abbas, PLO chairman and PA president, continues to hold out the promise of peace and historic reconciliation.

If the world truly wants peace, it must seize this final opportunity. As Olmert forms his coalition government, the international community, including Israel's closest friends, must steer Israel away from the illusory benefits of unilateralism and towards the resumption of negotiations. As even the Likud parliamentarian Uzi Landau recognised, permanent borders cannot be drawn by one party alone.

· Manuel Hassassian is the Palestine Liberation Organisation representative to the UK

"Comment on the day of the suicide bombing"

We received this commentary from Adam Keller regarding the recent tragic events in Tel-Aviv.

We had just heard about the explosion and were busy making phonecalls: "Wanted just to know you are okay. You heard about the bombing, did you?" Then we saw an email coming from overseas to the Gush Shalom mailbox, a very short one: "Any comment on the latest terror attack assholes?" As a matter of fact - yes.

One o'clock. In the noon news magazine on the radio, the commentator speaks in a rather bored way of the ongoing army raid into Nablus, words nearly identical to the reports of yesterday and of last week: "The Palestinians claim that the boy shot in central Nablus was unarmed... The soldiers assert that they had shot only at armed militants, as per orders... This is part of a continuing operation to root out terrorists in Nablus and Jenin, which is already going on for several weeks... When soldiers arrive, dozens of youngsters start throwing stones, which complicates the detention of wanted terrorists..."

Suddenly: "We interrupt this report. A large explosion just occurred at the Old Central Bus Station in Tel-Aviv. Dozens of casualties. Stand by for further details"

The Old Central Bus Station. The least fashionable part of Tel-Aviv. The lively dirty streets which are the haunt of migrant workers one jump ahead of the notorious Immigration Police and the most poor and disadvantaged among Israel's own citizens. The place where people have again and again to endure suicide bombings, too. Today, once again.

As always, the dilemma: Should we go there, to the scene where six people have just perished and forty others wounded, a place which is just a short bus ride away and where we just a few days ago went to buy sandals? Go there, as Israelis and human beings and and peace activists - but to do what? To say what?

Sure, we are horrified by the senseless random killing. But we have also something to say about why it happened, how it might have been prevented, how the next one can still be prevented. But how to say it on this day and in that location? How to make comprehensible, to shocked and angry and traumatized people, that the occupation is the root cause of our suffering as well as the Palestinians'? How to explain convincingly that we must dry at source the oppression which makes young Palestinians don explosive belts and throw away their lives together with those of others?

In the end, we don't do anything except stay tuned to the non-stop broadcasts on radio and TV. At least the extreme-right people, who in past years used to rush to such scenes with their hate placards, are not there either today. It seems that they no longer find the public so receptive to their simplistic "solutions".

The flood of news reports continues. The number of fatalities has grown to nine, and doctors at Ichilov Hospital are still fighting to save the life of a very severely wounded sixteen year-old boy. At least two of the women killed were foreign migrant workers, and the Israeli consulate in Romania is trying to locate the family of one of them. Responsibility was claimed by the Islamic Jihad, and the perpetrator was a young man from the West Bank town of Quabatiya. In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian boy (age not mentioned) was killed in an Israeli artillery bombardment (probably, somebody again instructed the artillery to decrease the range to the Palestinian inhabited areas...)

The bombing had targeted the very same cheap restaurant which was attacked in the previous Tel-Aviv bombing, three and a half months ago. Three and a half months ago. Nobody seems to remember the time when suicide bombings were taking place every week, or also several times each week. Nobody mentions that that had been when Hamas was the main initiator of suicide bombings. Nobody mentions that Hamas has been carefully keeping their one-side truce for more than a year now, that Jihad is a small organization with limited resources, that the Hamas self-restraint has saved the lives of quite a few Israelis in the past year.

A TV, reporter speaks smugly from the scene of the bombing: "The police had carried out massive detentions of Palestinian workers. Illegal Palestinians were found in all the restaurants and workshops around the site of the bombing. Why couldn't the police arrest them before it happened? (Because they had absolutely nothing to do with the bombing, because they came to Tel-Aviv for no other reason than to feed their families - but nobody says this on the air...)

In Jerusalem, the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Knesset goes ahead as scheduled, and is broadcast live. The eternal Shimon Peres is Acting Speaker. Not always our favourite among politicians. But in his speech today, he at least admits that the Palestinians are not solely to blame for the absence of peace, and that some Israeli mistakes also have something to do with it. This is not nothing, especially on such a day.

The late night news is sometimes less tightly controlled than the prime time. The commentator reports about Defense Minister Mofaz holding consultations with his generals on the coming military response, and remarks: "So, there will be a retaliation, and the Palestinians will retaliate to the retaliation, and we will retaliate again, and then what?" No answer was forthcoming.

Adam Keller
April 17, Tel-Aviv

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Alastair Crooke writes about Hamas in Prospect Magazine

This post, from the current edition of Prospect, was sent, with thanks, by Alastair.

William comments: This is important... though controversial in its way.

Recognizing Israel

Alastair Crooke*

On the face of it, the Hamas refusal to recognize Israel seems singularly perverse; plainly Israel “exists”! Tel Aviv is a large modern city that shows no sign of any imminent slide into the sea. To us in the West, this posture has the flavour of an ideological backwardness which we often associate with Islamist movements whom we find curiously at odds with modern reality. Hamas however is neither stuck in the past nor unable “to do politics” – as the Americans might say. What they are doing in dramatic fashion is to put a finger on a key failure of the Israeli – Palestinian political process since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 – which is the singular omission of any clear outline of Palestinian rights. Hamas is correct: the starting point for any next steps, whether political or in terms of an extended armistice, needs this prior commitment.

What Hamas is saying in refusing to recognize Israel is that whilst the West understands, and indeed feels, the narrative of the Jews; there has been no concomitant recognition of the Palestinian narrative of injustice that they feel in respect to the events of 1948 when villages and houses were destroyed, many were killed and thousands fled to the refugee camps where those who survive still remain. I met one of those in Sabra and Shatila camp in Lebanon at the end of last month. This proud woman still retained her father’s seal of office as mayor of his village from the time of the founding of Israel and an unredeemed account owed by the British mandate authorities for £68 – a considerable debt at that time.

Hamas are suggesting that recognition of this Palestinian narrative should take the form of an affirmation of the Palestinian rights to a State that should indicate its basis as Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian lands conquered in 1967.

It may surprise readers that this is not already the case: We recognize and repeat frequently the right of Israel to a State within secure borders, and it might seem obvious that we have outlined Palestinian rights to a State shaped on the basis of the lines of ’67 or the armistice lines of ’49 which are almost identical in the Palestinian context. In fact we have not. UN resolution 242 refers to withdrawal from lands conquered in ’67. Israel put much effort into lobbying to have the word “the” dropped from the sentence “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from (the) territories occupied in the recent conflict”. Israel interprets this to mean that the amount of land from which they withdraw is for them to decide in any negotiations with the Palestinians.

Bill Clinton, at the time of the last Camp David talks in 2000 came close to setting out signposts for the destination of talks when he outlined his 10 point plan. His initiative however never took substance. Similarly, when Clinton asked Senator Mitchell to report on the causes of the Intifada, we (I was a staff member) were forbidden by the incoming US Administration to signpost the likely shape of a Palestinian State. Over simplified, the Mitchell Report outlined three components to a solution: de-escalate the violence, build confidence and start talking. The fourth chapter, “..and talk about what?” which was the obvious sequel, was denied to us. I recall the US official, Flynt Leverett who drafted the “Roadmap” before it was adopted by the international Quartet of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia told me that he had made explicit reference in the first drafts to a Palestinian State on the basis of the lands occupied in ’67 with Jerusalem as its capital; but twice this reference was removed on instructions from above. Leverett has emphasised that the widely held view that the Roadmap would lead to a Palestinian State on the lines of ‘67 has no basis in terms of the wording of the document. None of these efforts, of course, were intended to go beyond setting broad parameters of a State, whilst leaving the details to be settled between the parties.

Hamas is asking for this omission to be rectified. In asymmetrical negotiations between parties of such different political weight and military strength, it is not surprising that the party with almost no cards to play wants to know what is on the table before they begin to show their hand. If this is done, Hamas has said that it is able to deal with reality of Israel in the course of this process. Indeed reality would be hard to ignore given that Hamas wants an armistice to be fully negotiated to include, borders, customs, passage and overflights inter alia!

Is “recognizing reality” then a short-changing of Israel’s longstanding quest for legitimacy? In one sense it is: It is unlikely that Hamas would ever undertake to say that what happened to Palestinians in ’48 as a result of events that happened earlier in Europe was in some way right or legitimate. They cannot; but the wording does suggest the solution: No observant Jew can deny God’s gift of all the Promised Land to the Jewish people. Jews manage this by dividing time into redeemed time and unredeemed time. In redeemed time, God’s promise will be fulfilled. In unredeemed time, we have to deal with reality, and make compromises. Similarly no observant Muslim can deny the Waqf, the endowment of Arab lands dedicated to Islam, of which Palestine is a part. Thus Hamas can accept reality, but it cannot say that Israel, and the way in which it came into being is somehow “legitimate”.

The solution to resolving the recognition issue, and, incidentally, to putting the political process on the sound footing that it never had, is – as Hamas says – an affirmation of the parameters of the State to which Palestinians have the right to aspire.

This should not be impossible obstacle to anyone with the courage to give a lead. President Bush in his speech of 26 May 2005 in the Rose Garden at the White House said that the Armistice line of ’49 should be the basis of talks, and that any change to it can only come about by mutual agreement between the parties. He explicitly indicated to that Jerusalem was to be a part of any arrangement.

Of course the Administration as usual muddied the waters of this statement by providing side letters in a contrary vein to Mr Sharon on settlements, and by repeated references to the Roadmap which provides for a Palestinian State initially on provisional borders. But why not pocket Bush’s statement? Why should Europe not take the lead on this issue? It is Europe that recently has been bearing the brunt of Muslim anger in the Region. It is Europe that has 20 million Muslims living here. It is our neighbourhood: someone needs to break the mould – Hamas is right not to recognize reality - until Europe recognizes the reality too of needing to correct this omission by outlining what is a future Palestinian State.

* Alastair Crooke is director of Conflicts Forum ( He was formerly an European Union mediator who negotiated with Hamas and other Palestinian factions. He has just returned from holding a further round of talks with Hamas in the light of their election win

Hamas launches fundraising drive on Web sites, TV stations

from the Associated Press:

The new Hamas government, broke and increasingly isolated, has turned to ordinary people for financial help, launching a fundraising drive on Web sites and Arab satellite TV stations, a spokesman said Thursday.

The appeal, which is sponsored by the Arab League, comes at a time when the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority is not only being shunned by the West, but Hamas leaders are also getting the cold shoulder in some Arab capitals.

Arab governments have been reluctant to make good on pledges of financial aid
to the Palestinian Authority, apparently in part because they see Hamas as part of a global Islamic movement that is challenging autocratic Arab regimes. In addition, some Arab countries are reluctant to cross the United States.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas was to embark on a fundraising tour of five Arab nations on Friday, but was expected to be snubbed by officials in at least two countries, Jordan and Egypt. Nevertheless, Israel Radio reported on Thursday that Zahar said he would travel to Egypt on Saturday. Other stops include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Hamas has acknowledged that it is broke and will have trouble paying the salaries of 140,000 government workers -payments that sustain one-third of the Palestinians. The March paychecks are two weeks overdue, and the Palestinian finance minister has said he is still tens of millions of dollars short of covering the payroll.

On Wednesday, Hamas launched a fundraising drive with the backing of the Arab League, an umbrella group that has no significant budget of its own. In appeals on TV stations and Web sites, donors were asked to send money to an account at the Arab Bank in Cairo. The Hamas Web site on Thursday published a "public appeal to support the steadfastness of our Palestinian brothers and to foil the Zionist plans aimed at forcing them to give up their legitimate national rights."

Israel, the United States and the European Union have said they would withhold millions of dollars in payments to the PA. Hamas initially said it would make up the shortfall by appealing to the Arab and Muslim world. But Arab states have so far failed to back up their rhetorical solidarity with the Palestinians with money.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Big Wink

This is the latest offering from Uri Avnery, the Peace Now boss:

Uri Avnery 8.4.06 The Big Wink

'Advance and be recognized!' the recruit on sentry duty calls out when he hears somebody approaching.

'Sergeant Johns!' comes the answer.

'Advance and be recognized!' the sentry calls again.

'I told you already, I'm Sergeant Johns!' comes the answer.

'Advance and be recognized!' the sentry calls for the third time.

'What do you think you are doing, you idiot!' the sergeant shouts.

'Those are my orders,' the recruit replies, 'To call "advance and be recognized" three times and then shoot.'

This is an old British army joke. It also happens to be the program of the government that is being formed in Israel.

Every Israeli government must have "Basic Guidelines". True, they are not binding. All our governments have violated their Basic Guidelines on many occasions. But tradition and good manners demand that there be Basic Guidelines and that they be put on the table of the Knesset, together with the coalition agreements that set out the division of the spoils, the really important bit.

The true aim of the Basic Guidelines is to attract those whom the Prime Minister wants to have in his government, and to repel all others.

A true leader will want to set up a coalition that will enable him to realize his vision. But a Prime Minister who is a politician - and nothing but a politician - is simply interested in a coalition that makes life easier for himself.

Ehud Olmert is of the second kind. He wants to lie in the middle of the bed, between a rightist partner and a leftist one, preferably of roughly equal size. That will provide him with a stable government. When promoting a "leftist" cause, his party's ministers, together with the leftist ministers, will have a majority in the cabinet without their rightist colleagues; when promoting a "rightist' agenda, he will have a majority without the leftists. Simple logic.

At present, it's an easy matter. The leftist partner will be Labor (probably with 6 ministers), the rightist will be composed of Shas, the Orthodox and the Lieberman party (probably 7 ministers together). The Pensioners (probably 2 ministers) will be in the middle. The Kadima ministers (probably 10) will always be able to construct a majority for the government, sometimes with the rightists, sometimes with the leftists. Olmert hopes that this will make life easy for him for the entire period of the new Knesset, until November 2010.

The Basic Guidelines will reflect this goal. They must make it possible for Amir Peretz, Eli Yishai and Avigdor Liebermann to join a government that will include real leftists, extreme religious fundamentalists and complete fascists.

Even the prophet Isaiah did not dare to dream of that. His ambitions were satisfied by the wolf lying down with the lamb.

Isaiah knew that this vision could come true only after the appearance of the Messiah. Olmert, far from being a Messiah, is only a clever politician. He has to do without divine intervention.

Lieberman wants Israel to be free of Arabs - Araber-rein in German. For this end he is ready to relinquish whole areas of Israel which are inhabited by Arab citizens, annexing, in return, large stretches of the West Bank. Amir Peretz, in contrast, wants to accord full equality to Israel's Arab citizens. Peretz wants to conduct negotiations with the Palestinian authority, Lieberman wants to destroy it. The Orthodox demand that the state pay forever for the upkeep of tens of thousands of Yeshiva (religious seminary) students, who do not want to work at all. Labor wants to raise the wages of productive workers. And so on, infinitely. And Olmert himself wants, of course, to realize his "Convergence Plan", which means that Israel will "unilaterally" fix its "permanent borders", without agreement and partnership with the Palestinians.

What to do? One has to stitch together Basic Guidelines that everyone can agree to. Impossible? On the contrary. Nothing easier. One needs only a good Jewish lawyer - and we have plenty of these.

In the Basic Guidelines, no mention of the "Convergence Plan" will be made, neither will the word "unilaterally" occur. They will say only that the government will act according to the speech made by Olmert after the closing of the ballots on election day. That is supposed to satisfy everyone.

There are now three camps in Israel:

(a) Those who want real negotiations with the Palestinians in order to realize the Two-States solution.

(b) Those who want a "unilateral" withdrawal, with the intent of annexing parts of the West Bank and leaving what's left to the Palestinians, after removing any settlements there.

(c) Those who oppose such a "unilateral" withdrawal, under the pretext that it "gives" the Palestinians territories without getting anything in return. That doesn't mean that they actually want to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, but, on the contrary, that they want to avoid giving up any territory at all.

Amir Peretz belongs to the first camp, Olmert to the second, Lieberman and Shas to the third. The Basic Guidelines must satisfy them all.

How? The answer lies in the British joke.

The Basic Guidelines will say that first of all, Israel will call upon the Palestinians to make peace based on the Two-State Solution. Only after it becomes clear that there is no partner for such a peace, will Israel take its fate in its own hands (meaning: fix its borders unilaterally). In his election day speech, Olmert addressed Mahmoud Abbas directly, with resounding pathos, offering to start peace negotiations.

(That reminds me of something: After the 1956 war, a friend of mine interrogated a high-ranking Egyptian prisoner, who told him that they used to listen to David Ben-Gurion's speeches on the radio. Every time Ben-Gurion announced that "We are stretching out our hands for peace", the Egyptians put their forces on high alert. In a way, it's an Israeli inversion of the Roman proverb si vis pacem, para bellum - if you want peace, prepare for war.)

Olmert's offer to Mahmoud Abbas is accompanied with a huge wink for the Israeli public. Everybody understands that this is a phase we have to pass through before coming to the real thing. It is a multi-purpose maneuver: to provide Peretz with a fig-leaf when he is asked to support unilateral steps, to satisfy the Americans when they are requested to agree to the annexation of large parts of the West Bank, and also to give Lieberman and Shas a year or two to enjoy themselves in the government, before Olmert starts implementing the Convergence Plan (if that ever happens).

Notice: Nobody, but absolutely nobody, is discussing the offer to Mahmoud Abbas, while everybody is talking about the annexation that will come afterwards.

Like that British sentry: Call once, twice, a third time - and then shoot.
Still, there remains the question: how can Amir Peretz and his colleagues sit in the government together with a person like Lieberman?

Lieberman is a man of the extreme-extreme Right. He could give lessons to Jean-Marie Le Pen and Joerg Haider. He is the sole leader of his party, his talk is violent and brutal, his message racist. He openly proclaims that his aim is to get all the Arab citizens out of Israel.

Before the elections, Peretz promised that he would not sit in the government with Lieberman. Since then two things have happened:

First, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, Yossi Beilin, invited Lieberman to a well-publicized breakfast at his home, consuming (according to the gleeful reporters) "juicy herrings" and enthusiastically lauding Lieberman's personal qualities. In this way he accorded legitimization to this person, who until then was considered beyond the political pale.
Then, after the elections, an even more disgraceful thing happened. Peretz' people declared that he, not Olmert, was going to head the next government. It was to be a "social coalition", without Kadima. Simple arithmetic shows that such a coalition must include not only Shas, but also the National Union, the settlers' party that competes with Lieberman in racism. This ploy conferred legitimacy on the entire racist right. If extremists like Benny Eilon and Effi Eitam are kosher, why not Lieberman?

How could this happen to Peretz? It was clearly a hasty reaction to the behavior of Kadima. Immediately after the elections, Olmert should have called Peretz and proclaimed him his favored partner. Instead, Olmert's people started to humiliate Peretz and declare him unfit for the post of Minister of Finance, which he craved. Furious, Peretz started the move in order to get back at Olmert and frighten him. Understandable, but unforgivable. It was a personal response, and one which has caused huge damage. It has legitimized Lieberman as a candidate for membership in the government. It has also infuriated the Arab citizens and created the impression that Peretz may not be such a staunch fighter for peace after all.

All this is worrisome. True, the next government could hardly be worse than the Likud government. The question is whether it will be much better. But surely it will be adept at winking in all directions.