By Najeeb Jung
30 Jan, 2013
IT IS oft said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it; and the one certain lesson from history is that, despite aberrations and hiccups, the human species prefers a life of harmony and peace focusing to live in relative comfort. So while dictators or groups professing specific and rigid beliefs may rule from time to time, such success is not sustainable. To rule for long periods, governments must be inclusive and prove that they work for the majority of the people that includes the weakest of the weak and the poorest of the poor.
Because of this conviction I was concerned over consistent reports in the Israeli and the Western media of the anticipated and imminent return to power of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the past 23 years since we first saw his emergence as the spokesman of the Israeli government during the Iran- Israel conflict of 1991, Netanyahu, albeit sophisticated and well spoken, has been a hawk and a major roadblock to any peace process in the middle- east. He has consistently blocked initiatives for providing a fair deal to the Palestinians and his all pervading influence over significant elements of Israeli life — from education systems to zoning plans, has promoted a level of ethnic separation, with politics being a part of it. His latest initiative to construct 3,000 additional homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and his intent to build homes in the controversial E- I area would be a death knell to the two state initiative. Therefore even as middle class Israelis in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv demonstrated in favour of peace, Netanyahu has alluded to peacemaking in vague terms, saying that coalition talks would focus on “security and diplomatic response”. Therefore to think of the elections with “King Bibi” emerging as a colossus in contemporary Israeli politics, destined to define the future of the region, was a horrifying thought.
Israel has spoken; and pushed to advantage the centrist Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid that won 19 of the 120 member Knesset (Parliament) seats.
The mandate is now divided among several parties ranging from right to left with Netanyahu’s coalition getting 31 seats against its earlier 42, sending Israeli psephologists in a tizzy. This significant shift has also undermined the ultranationalist Habayit Hayehudi that won 11 seats against a better anticipated performance.
But despite all this, and the compulsions to compromise, Netanyahu has swung into action to dilute the commitment of Yesh Atid by offering the more fashionable ( but soft) portfolios of finance and foreign affairs to Lapid, not just to seduce him with perceived good portfolios, but shift his focus from his promise of an inclusive programme for the Arabs or from other urgent domestic issues like housing, sanitation etc. Lapid has resisted these moves and his Facebook account speaks of exercising patience rather than accepting anything in a hurry.
Taking the cue from these elections one hopes that this would also give a fillip to President Obama’s policy towards Palestine that has become moribund.
Obama would do well to get in greater involvement of former President Jimmy Carter in place of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair whose performance has, disappointingly, been of no significance.
Jimmy Carter has not only invested time here, but also has the sensitivity, the acceptability and above all, the commitment towards peace in the region.
Netanyahu had the gall to publically remonstrate with and indeed pull- up President Obama after his State of Union address in May 2011 when Obama called for a two state solution. It was noticeably pathetic to see him retracting his statement after a rebuke from Netanyahu. In the changed scenario, and with the confidence that he does not have to look ahead for re- election, one hopes of a more positive intervention from President Obama. American foreign policy experts understand the criticality of peace in the region that, if seriously disturbed, has full potential of disturbing world peace.
Netanyahu’s marginal performance should also tell other right wing parties across the globe that the way to sustain power is not by serving the interests of a few, or speaking the language of a particular community, race or region and that inclusive governance is the only way forward. An example akin to Israel is Pakistan, a nation that was also formed in the name of religion, to give a distinct identity to Indian Muslims.
Here too, despite the strong resurgence of fundamentalism, the popularity of madrasas, poor living conditions and poverty — all elements that would attract people towards heightened religious, parochial and partisan behaviour, the people of Pakistan have consistently rejected communal parties backed by strong mullahs. Even here the parties duly elected are forced to reject a partisan blatantly religious agenda. So while people may turn up in large numbers to listen to demagogues and clap and cheer heightening adrenaline levels, fascist ideologues and their cadres may run social service units and schools, teach and preach ‘ nationalist’ ideology — in the long run this is rejected at the hustings.
Najeeb Jung is the Vice- Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia
Source: Mail Today