There are no mates in this stalemate
June 20, 2011 1 Comment
Israel’s right wing government has taken a lot of beating in the mainstream Western media, including in Israel itself.
One of the main reasons for that is Avigdor Lieberman and his party “Israel beyteynu”, which in the last elections won 15 percent of the votes, which put it as the third largest party in Israel, ahead even of the traditional Labour party, whose votes mostly went to the centrist party Kadima.
Avigdor Lieberman’s typical voter profile is Eastern European immigrants to Israel that have a right wing propensity. In accordance with many of his voters, Lieberman, who heads his party, has a direct attitude, which does not go down well in the media when he promotes policies such as citizenship only for people who declare loyalty to Israel (which was never passed in parliament), insists on no more removing settlements as gestures of good will (in fact the opposite, keep building until this is addressed in a peace negotiation) or accuses the UN and Western world of double standard in regards to Israel.
While some Israelis see Lieberman as a politician unwilling to compromise for self benefit and in touch with the sombre reality, many of the leftist/centrist Israelis are dreading two possible scenarios because of Lieberman’s hardline. In the short-term scenario, there is fear of further isolation of Israel in the global arena, as some media is looking to create a narrative, in which, Israel is a country that is slowly turning into the same regime its people fled from in the last century and Lieberman fits the bill as a catalyst. The second long term scenario is that progress would be made in the peace negotiations and when the time would come for Israel to take a brave step and commit to a risky and unpopular move, Lieberman would have enough power to veto it and a rare opportunity for peace would be missed.
All criticisms of Lieberman are justified, as he is a dark horse in Israeli politics and after the last elections he is in a position to tilt the balance and cause Netanyahu’s government to crash, which puts him in the heart of it all and justifies the media attention and demand for accountability as the Foreign Minister.
However the mainstream media fails to juxtapose Lieberman’s positions with those from the Palestinian side, who are not less powerful, namely Hamas, in order to give the reporting a balance.
It wouldn’t be wrong to claim that the media’s treatment of Hamas has been on the softer side. Some commentators downplay the significance of Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, while others portray a picture as if this refusal isn’t an obstacle to peace, basing this claim on ambiguous and slightly more moderate remarks from Hamas to the Western media (most notable one by Khaled Suleiman in 2006). However, every remark is often followed by the restatement of Hamas’ official stance by its leaders, which is to never recognize Israel’s right to exist and the fact that in practice, Hamas has not even gone as far as modifying its charter, which calls for the occupation of the entire land of Israel and killing of all Jews. The same message is also embedded in the education system and media in Gaza.
The media also doesn’t address much of the internal politics of Hamas. On the one hand, Hamas has been a far better party than Fatah in regards to its own people. Unlike Fatah, who allegedly used a big amount of Palestinian aid money to fund a lavish lifestyle for their families outside of Palestine and were embroiled in all sorts of corruption cases, Hamas is not known to be involved with any major corruption. Moreover, it is known to give social care and support to the people of Gaza. However on the other hand, Hamas has been ruthless with the Fatah party members, injuring and killing them (mostly as reprisals for the treatment of Hamas members in the West Bank). Hamas have also been forcing some aspects of Islamic law, which involves suppressing women, gays, Christians, personal freedom and freedom of speech. Not to mention the complete lack of investment in infrastructure, while building up and developing an arsenal of weapons against Israel. To add to this list, their actions around their relationship with smaller militant groups and their own armed forces which have contributed to Israel’s naval and land blockade of Gaza as well as the civilian casualties, which are a result of conducting combat from civilian areas.
The next few months leading up to September, when apparently an application to the UN for recognition of Palestine as a country would be made by Abbas and his government, I predict a media battle. Israel on the one hand will try to show the fragility and impracticality of the Hamas-Fatah agreement and how it is the main contributor to the peace negotiations collapse, while on the other hand the Palestinians will continue to claim their right to their own state, by delegitimizing Israel’s existence and highlighting the stalemate of the negotiations, because of Israel’s unwillingness to withdraw its settlements to the 1967 borders.