The man who turned opportunism into an art form
Tzachi Hanegbi, a one-time Likud hardliner, is returning home after a brief stint as a Kadima dove
Tzachi Hanegbi, who is leading an exodus of Kadima MKs to Likud, has been working overtime the last few years to get rid of his image as the hooligan of Israeli politics. On his slick website, he wrote that his experience, the positions he filled and the wisdom that comes with age contributed to the changes he has undergone since his days as the "vocal student protester on top of the monument in Yamit railing against the government's decision to evacuate the communities in the Sinai." Indeed, Tzachi has adopted a quiet manner of speech and a broad smile. He dropped the extreme right-wing talk he learned from his mother, Geula Cohen, and replaced it with a song of praise for peace.
In exchange for the big prize he had been given as an opposition Kadima MK - the chairmanship of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee - Hanegbi adopted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's version of events according to which President Mahmoud Abbas is the one sabotaging the peace negotiations. "Abu Mazen's [Abbas'] rejectionism is surprising," Hanegbi said on the London and Kirshenbaum program in February 2010. His removal from the committee chairmanship and ejection from the Knesset following a conviction for giving false testimony turned Hanegbi into the new hero of the Zionist left. Together with the opposition leader at the time, Tzipi Livni, he advocated a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians, urging Netanyahu to include Kadima in the government and entrust the negotiations to Livni.
Last August, Hanegbi went all the way to the University of Pittsburgh to attend a closed meeting with Palestinian activists. He sat next to diehard leftists, including former cabinet minister Ophir Pines, Brig. Gen. (res. ) Yisraela Oron (from the Geneva Initiative ) and Boaz Karni (from the Economic Cooperation Fund, established by Yossi Beilin ), in sessions on a permanent arrangement based on the 1967 borders and the division of Jerusalem.
In November 2011, Hanegbi went with Livni to Amman to meet and be photographed with Abbas (and here it should be noted that outgoing opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich did not ask to meet with the Palestinian leader ). Suddenly, Netanyahu became for Hanegbi someone who opposes negotiations; in an article published in The Jerusalem Post in May in response to the uproar sparked by Yuval Diskin three months ago, Hanegbi wrote that the Shin Bet head was right - that the government has no interest in talking to the Palestinians and that if Israel does not try to promote dialogue with the pragmatic camp headed by Abu Mazen, the alternatives will be a lot worse.
The problem is not that Hanegbi is jumping from the ranks of one party into the government of its rival. A politician, just like anyone else, can change his outlook and adopt a new one and join a party that reflects this. The problem is that the outlook remains where it was and only the backside changes places. The other problem is that Hanegbi is not alone. The diplomatic-security cabinet has for the last three years included two ministers whose ideologies are totally unconnected to the government's policies (or lack thereof ). Ehud Barak said in 1999 that if we continue holding onto the territories and allow the Palestinians to vote, Israel will turn into a binational state. He said in 2010 that if we do not allow them to vote, it will be an apartheid state. What has changed since then?
Dan Meridor said a decade ago that of all the questions - security, economic policy and others - the demographic-democratic issue is the imminent threat we will be unable to evade. What has changed since then?
And what has changed since spring, when Hanegbi argued that Netanyahu has no interest in conducting negotiations with the Palestinians?
Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN, will have to take time away in the coming months from his much-covered campaign against the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA ), which dares expose Israel's actions in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority leadership is determined to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade the status of Palestine. The only question is whether to do this before the U.S. elections or on a symbolic date - November 27, the 65th anniversary of the UN vote on partition. As a prelude to the storm, the UN Committee Against Torture recently presented Israel with a list of 57 incidents involving suspected violations of the international Convention Against Torture.
Thirty-seven of the questions asked of Israel were raised in the joint report presented to the UN committee by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel (New Israel Fund, get ready to be attacked ).
The report of the Israeli organizations presents a harsh picture of the policy of torture, abuse and humiliating treatment in security interrogations, at detention facilities and in the occupied territories in general, which include arrests without trial; difficult incarceration conditions; trials based on improperly submitted evidence; granting of immunity to interrogators; and no investigation or review of complaints about torture.
The UN committee is asking for information on several Palestinian detainees who have been questioned since 2002 under the "ticking bomb" designation; there have been some 700 complaints of abuse during Shin Bet questioning. The committee noted that even though Israel is among about 150 countries that have signed the Convention Against Torture, and committed to take every possible step to prevent torture from taking place in its sovereign territory, it is refraining from including torture in the legal code, as the convention requires.
The questions raised by the committee address, among other things, the travel restrictions that prevent Gaza Strip residents from having access to health services. In any case, it would be worthwhile for the committee to ask the Hamas government in Gaza if the dispute with the government in Ramallah should bar critically ill persons from seeking treatment in hospitals in Israel and occasionally sentence them to death by torture.