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August 07, 2005


One of the things I find amazing about Israeli politics is how little the personal corruption of Sharon and Netanyahu seems to effect their political fortunes. Maybe somebody who knows more about Israeli politics can explain it to me. Is the influence of the Russian mobsters that great that being personally dirty to the degree those guys are just doesn't matter?

There are more than a few tantilizing comparisons to be made between Likud and their supporters and our Republicans that their supporters: The policy-free self-serving attitudes of the party elites, the rampant graft, the fundamentalists pulling the strings and a base that doesn't give a shit if the party leaders run the economy into the ground and ruin the basis of quality of life for average Israelis as long as they keep pummeling the Palestinians.

As to the author's question about why corruption doesn't seem to be so important in Israeli politics, I think it's for two main reasons (I'm in the process of writing a time series paper on Israeli electoral politics, BTW, so I probably only know enough to be dangerous!): The nature of coalition governments in Israel and the nature of the voting system.

The current Likud-led coalition (a winning coalition must have at least 61 seats in the Knesset) is Likud and three orthodox parties, the NRP (National Religious Party), NU (National Union) and Shas. I don't think that the NRP, NU and Shas care if Ariel Sharon started sleeping with men as long as he kept cracking the whip on the Palestinians.

I'm surprised that Likud's partners have allowed Sharon to move forward with the Gaza pullout without busting up his coalition; what clues you into to just how they pulled this off is the insistence on expanding settlements in the West Bank. To the orthodox in the NRP, NU and Shas, the West Bank is the dealbreaker because it is the historic land of Judea and Samaria which the Jewish fundies think is theirs because the Big Man said so in the Torah.

Basically, Sharon bribed the folks to his right by offering more of the West Bank for a Gaza pullout. Gaza's an arid dump anyway, but it allows Sharon to look like a big peacemaker to give Palestinians back their own land.

Settlements and keeping the Palestinians under the boot are what matter in this current coalition, not Sharon's nepotism or the crookedness of his government. Those things are tolerated as long as he continues to be Arik Sharon, Ass Kicker of Palestinians.

On the second point, the Israeli voting system encourages a great deal of corruption in all political camps because it's so chaotic. Looking at the primary system, party primaries are not held on the same day across the country as is the case here in the U.S. Voters vote for party lists in some cases, not individual politicians. Some parties have direct election of representatives in their primaries. Most of the religious parties have their representatives appointed by a spiritual leader. In some of the parties, party institutions elect their candidates.

It all makes for an environment that is ripe for corruption.

There are more than a few tantilizing comparisons to be made between Likud and their supporters and our Republicans [and] their supporters

Exactly what I was thinking, Patrick! The signal former leftist C. Hitchens has justified his conversion to some sort of conservatism partially by chiding American Democrats' 'choosing the lesser of two evils' in American pres. elections. Like (alas) any nasty, self-dealing polemicist, he made a fair point in an unfair way. The upshot is the grotesque perception that Sharon, Bush, Frist, etc. are 'bulwarks' against extremism. Gag me with a spoon, man!

Thanks for your interesting comment.

Patrick makes a good point about "security issues" being paramount. The religious parties are even more corrupt than the nonreligious ones since it is understood that they are in politics to get money for their schools and other institutions. I have been less than inspired by the candidates put up by Labor since Barak.
Good post, DHinMI. I thought this was important or something because good soldier Bibi has shown readiness to quit--the political class is not united. But this has no political advantage for Bibi.

Or, rather, if the Gaza pullout is a success, that Sharon's rival may have just dispatched himself.

I'm not well-informed here: what will be the measure of the pullout's success?

'pockets: good question, and something that should probably be defined. In terms of diplomacy and the long-term interests, that's a tough question. In terms of what it will mean to Netanyahu's political fortunes, I think it's there in that final clip, from Haaretz:

The bigger gamble Netanyahu is taking is linked to the disengagement. If the pullout fails and is accompanied by tragic events that culminate in a wave of terror and Qassam rocket attacks on Ashkelon, Netanyahu will become an alternative.

As far as short-term politics, if there isn't massive problems with the extraction of the settlers that reflect poorly on the government--and massive problems could reflect better on the government than on the settlers--or "a wave of terror and Qassam rocket attacks on Ashkelon," then it will be deemed a short-term success, and Netanyahu will have screwed himself.

Granted, a wave of terror would be judged "not success." But I'm not sure the absence of "massive problems" would be judged success (I don't know either way). It seems that the goal of the pullout is ultimately to decrease the regular terror attacks, and ease hostilities -- and it is seen as something of an (albeit thorny) olive branch Israel is extending, is that right? If the pullout is completed peacefully, and is followed by continued hostility and attacks -- that is, status quo -- will that be success?

I think the short-term/long-term distinction you're making is astute. When are the next elections?

Per NYT elections are to be called in November 2006, but waiting until this date is not likely.

Per Haaretz failure to pass a budget could cause elections to be called in six months.

The budget almost brought down the Likud governement last time around. Sharon stay in control only because he got propped up with the votes of Labor, Meretz and (iirc) the Arab parties.

both of these Terrorists and Mass murderers should have been hung long time ago.

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