Thursday, March 15, 2007

Turbulence ahead

Storm clouds approaching the rooftop from the west and today a suitably blustery day for catching up on the news after our all too brief trip to a relatively sane country. A sift through the papers over a large cappuccino at a cafe on Rothschild Blvd revealed political storm clouds on the horizon as well.

Domestically, Olmert, suffering from chronically low popularity and haunted by a string of corruption investigations is now anxiously awaiting the results of the interim report of the Winograd Committee he himself appointed to investigate the fiasco of Lebanon II. By all accounts, the results will be damning.

Various scenarios could emerge: Olmert's resignation and replacement as Kadima head and PM by Tsipi Livni; the mass defection of Kadima MKs to Likud thereby instituting Bibi as PM, even new elections. Whatever happens, a weak and rudderless leadership and a Knesset full of people concerned only with covering their own backsides are inadequate to tackle the real challenge: how to deal with the formation of a new Palestinian unity government (announced today) and its support for the Saudi peace plan.

A strong government with some public support might find a formulation (especially on the return of refugees) to accept the Saudi/Arab peace plan as a basis for negotiations (it does, after all, offer Israel peace and normalisation.) But the government is weak and divided and until new forces appear (Netanyahu excluded) is incapable of taking a bold strategic decision. Much easier therefore to fight a rearguard battle, continue to boycott the new government, turn a deaf ear to the Arab moderates and fly in the face of the wind ...

like these birds on the seafront this morning

The fault lines on this issue of whether or not to work with the new Palestinian government may also split the International Quartet with the US on one side and the UN, Russia and most of Europe on the other. Expect some turbulence ahead.

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