Israel's surreal snap election call

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is playing games by forcing a snap election because he is desperate to coalesce with the extreme religious right, rather than the centrists who have called him to account.

It is always interesting to dig around the reasons governments proffer for snap elections.

Usually they have a lot to do with the inability of various coalitions to work together...or sometimes as in New Zealand's case in 1984 it was more of a Schnapps election....

In Israel it is the inevitable implosion of a fractious coalition which has been itching for a fight since its implausible marriage just 20 months ago.

Sure domestic concerns over budget issues have played their part, but the real kerosene on the BBQ is the so called 'nation state bill'  - the one by which Israel finally fesses up to what most of the world has known for decades - that Israel is not actually a democratic state because states can't be democratic if they privilege some citizens over others.

As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz puts it "...with all the pain involved in the bureaucratic ritual of erasing "equality" from our ID, we should be pleased that at least we'll stop lying to ourselves and to the's frightening to see a society that removes the masks from itself and exposes its ugliness, but we must not confuse law with order..."

When two of his key Cabinet Ministers challenged him on this 'law', continued illegal settlements and budget issues, Prime Minister Netanyahu sacked them and triggered an election.

What is surprising is that Finance Minister Yahir Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni were in line with even the most diehard American Jewish organizations which are certainly not known for tolerating any criticism of Isralei policy or actions.

The reality is that if this law is passed it will be impossible for even Israel's patron, the United States, to pretend that Israel is indeed the only bastion of democracy in the Middle East (Turkey is always conveniently forgotten).

Jewish fundamentalism - not to be confused with practice of the Jewish religion any more than Islamic fundamentalism should be confused with Islam - has had such a sway on Netanyahu that he's quite happy to put forward a piece of legislation that is completely unnecessary except that it serves his purpose: to rid himself of the current centrist parties and return to his happy hunting ground on the far right of politics.

There he will face no opposition to building more settlements, eroding further the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and invoking the security threat at all times.

How else can you justify legislation which privileges religious concerns over democratic rights of all citizens...including the 20% who are not Jewish but Christian and mostly Muslim?

The nation state bill has to be seen for the race law that it is, and is therefore no different from  the religious and ethnic discrimination by the likes of China, Burma, Egypt, Iran, or against the Kurds by Turkey and Iraq.

Some commentators within Israel have questironed for good reason whether this is a laying of the constitutional foundation for a binational segregated single state. Having ensured the almost impossibility of a two state solution by gobbling up huge chunks of the land that is supposed to form the state of Palestine, the purpose of this bill will be to legalize the apartheid that is already daily life for Palestinians.

Examples include exclusive use of land, privileged access to private and public sector jobs, education, health, financial, infrastructure, clean water, and social services for Jews. The absurdity is these 'nationality' rights are available to Jews anywhere in the world should they wish to live in Israel. They are not available to Palestinianse who have lived in these lands for hundreds and hundreds of years. They are permitted only second class citizenship rights if they are residents of Israel. If they are under occupation, tough.

So despite Livni and Lapid being outspoken for some time, Netanyahu has forced the early election by demanding they agree to certain terms which he knew they could not do.

Fine. That's coalition politics, but given the prognosis for so-called Middle East peace, it is a disaster.

As Lapid noted out loud, Netanyahu has severely damaged relations with the U.S. through is "patronizing and at times insulting" behaviour towards President Obama.

He called the snap election decision " an act of cowardice and lack of control".

Livni did not mince words either. she called Netanyahu a lisr who is "hysterical and a-f-r-a-i-d".

Parallel political activity which is also a concern for Netanyahu is a perceptible move in international intolerance of Isralei behaviour in terms of the ongoing illegal occupation, and a surge in favour of recognition of a Palestinian state.

Sweden has voted to recognize. Britain, Ireland, Spain and now France have voted likewise albeit symbolically but strongly. Denmark is next.

Netanyahu has warned these actual democracies that they are making "grave mistakes" and damaging the negotiation process which is the only midwife to a two state solution.

Yes, you can be forgiven for laughing out loud at the 'logic' of such a cry. The reaction of US Secretary of State John Kerry is equally laughable. He greeted the snap election news by making it clear that the U.S. does not involve itself in Idrael's domestic politics and, holding the straight face said he hoped a new government would be committed to peace between Israel and Paletine.

This snap election presents as strong evidence that Bibi as he is so endearingly/mockingly referred to, has almost worn out his sheep's clothing.

The French are so serious about seeing some progress in this moribund situation that they have crafted a diplomatic proposal for restoring talks incorporating UNSC resolutions within a 2 year timetable, along with calling for an international summit in Paris.

If it fails, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabias says France will join Sweden and most other countries of the world and recognize a Palestinan state.

The byproduct of his Gaulist gaul is he has forced Netanyahu to counter with the absurdity that recognition of a Palestinan state harms the chances of achieving peace.

It is like a schoolyard bully proclaiming you can't be our friend and also be their friend.

But here's the disturbing rub.

Currnet polling in Israel shows that Netanyahu and a right wing religious cabal (which discriminates on race and gender - women must ride down the back of the bus etc) have a good chance of winning on March 17, 2015.

That is because Israeli politics is heavily personality driven and Netanyahi has brand recognition and a record of being able to campsign on style over substance.

To heck with the economy or that thing called the occupation....or their effect on the security and stability of Israeli life.

Opinion writers in the region are urging Israelis to vote...some calling it the last vote as a democracy should the nation state bill pass.

Others just pointing to the reality that further subjugation of Palestinians by an Israeli government of any political or religious hue will not resolve the security issues for either Israelis or Palestinians.

New Zealand is now on the UN Security Council and on winning that coveted seat made it clear that this country would speak its mind.

In the very near future the issue of supporting a timetable for resumption of peace talks, or if that fails UNSC support for recognition of a Palestinan state could be one of the first challenges New Zealand faces. If that is the case then it is a perfect time for New Zealand to show some backbone. If the US can't, let's hope NZ can at least convince it to abstain on using its now tired old veto.