Only Force?

There is a growing feeling that the current government serves only itself. The Labor Party must either reject Lieberman or exit the government.

Just six months ago, the Olmert-Peretz government wrote in its government guidelines, under the heading "Minorities," that the government would ensure equality of rights for Arab citizens, expedite the process of resolving land disputes and accelerate the preparation of master plans for Arab communities, taking into account the needs of the Arab population and the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. It now turns out that those who signed these guidelines see no contradiction between them and the inclusion of Avigdor Lieberman in the coalition. Lieberman, who declares his wish to arrange for Arab communities to be transferred across the border, symbolizes the opposite of the aforementioned promises. This cynical approach to the government's commitments lends itself to a similar attitude toward the entire democratic process.

In the next elections, politicians will find it even more difficult to drag voters to the polling booths. Every time there is a glimmer of hope for change, such as the "big bang" that announced the creation of Kadima - a party whose agenda has evaporated - the disappointment just gets bigger. So far, the Olmert government can point to impressive achievements only in the number of people killed: hundreds of Lebanese civilians and Hezbollah members killed in a war whose necessity remains uncertain; hundreds of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians; and 160 Israelis, soldiers and civilians, killed in that same Lebanese war.

The Olmert government has proven that it will not hesitate to apply force on a massive scale. The inclusion of Lieberman would appear almost a natural development for such a government. Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz set up a government whose aim was to determine the state's borders. This agenda was replaced by the use of force. A great many lines in the government guidelines are dedicated to the need for negotiations with the Palestinians, but no liberating formula has been found to enable dialogue between the Israeli government, which has nothing to offer, and the Hamas government, which is unwilling to recognize Israel. The aspiration to restrict settlement in the territories, which also appears in the government guidelines, has been overturned as well: Construction in the settlements continues, in a clumsy attempt to draw closer to the settlers, who returned to bosom of the national consensus during the war in Lebanon. Even the promise to remove illegal outposts no longer exists.

Kadima may disappear in the next elections, but the question is whether the Labor Party will disappear in its wake. Labor's constituents did not vote for war, nor for Peretz as minister of war. They had hoped that he would work to reduce wage gaps, cut the defense budget, formulate a pension law, reform education, subsidize day care centers, raise the minimum wage and restore old-age allotments to a reasonable level. The ridiculous infighting among Labor ministers over Lieberman's inclusion in the coalition raises major questions about the party's necessity, irrespective of who heads it.

Between the president, who is being investigated for sex crimes, and Tzachi Hanegbi, who thinks that appointing political cronies to civil service jobs is a legitimate part of politics; between the government's refusal to appoint a state commission of inquiry and the chief of staff's refusal to step down because of his failure; there is a growing feeling that this government serves only itself. The Labor Party must either reject Lieberman or exit the government.