On Monday Avigdor Lieberman the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, joined the coalition government led by Kadima, a bourgeois party. The other main party in the coalition is the reformist Labour Party led by Peretz who since becoming leader has moved to the right. Yisrael Beiteinu is a far right racist party that calls for the expulsion of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Lieberman has been nominated to the position of Minister for Strategic Goals, a kind of super-minister of war, as Peretz still holds the position of the Minister of Defence.
The immediate result of Lieberman's nomination is a new show of power on the part of the Israeli army in Gaza. Yesterday (Thursday), Palestinian sources said three people, including a 75-year-old man, had been killed and eight others injured as result of the attack on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanun, when they were hit by a shell. Hospital officials said 15 people had been wounded, including four children and a woman who were hurt when a tank shell hit their house. The three are Mahmoud Fiyad, 75, Rawhi Akal, 23, and Diyab Basyuni, 15. Mahmoud Fiyad was killed when he went onto the balcony of his Beit Hanun home to take his disabled son inside. He was shot in the head by IDF troops on a rooftop.
Today, (Friday) a further 9 Palestinians were killed, among them a 40-year-old woman. Gaza hospital officials said that early this morning a 4-year-old boy died of wounds sustained yesterday under army shelling during the operation. This brings the total number of Palestinian deaths to 24 since the current attack on Gaza began on Wednesday.
The Israeli army has declared as usual that the army has only been targeting "militants" since the kidnapping of the soldier Gilad Sahlit. But Israel has killed 320 Palestinians, of which only 82 were armed, and those who were armed were young men using rifles fighting tanks and trained soldiers.
The army has said that the attack on Beith Hanun is aimed at preventing the launching of Qassam rockets into southern Israel. Unlike the rockets used by Hezbollah during the war of Lebanon the Qassam rockets are very ineffective. They can kill only if they hit some one right on the head! The army has announced that it will continue the attack on Beit Hanun for several days, and hat it was ordered on Wednesday by the security cabinet to prepare for a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip. So far casualties on the Israeli side have been very limited, just one Israeli soldier has been killed by the resistance, Staff Sergeant Kiril Golenshein, 21, from Shekef,a settlement in the 1967's occupied territories. As usual the numbers of Palestinians killed far outnumber the deaths among the Israeli Army.
This cold-blooded murder of the residents of Beit Hanun, is a reflection of the ongoing political crisis within the Israeli state. It is a desperate attempt to regain face on the part of those politicians who ordered the second Lebanon war which ended with a defeat for the Israeli war machine. Over 1000 Lebanese civilians were murdered by the Israeli air force using among other weapons, uranium based bombs. Now all these rotten politicians are accusing each other and plotting one against the other.
Chief-of-staff Dan Halutz is trying to stick to his position, after he appointed four division commanders whose performance is now being investigated by a Mickey Mouse Winogard committee. These appointments were made without the approval of Peretz, the Defence Minister. In the meantime the President of Israel is going to face a trial on criminal charges for sexual assaults and Olmert the Prime Minister is likely to end up in court for abuse of his powers for personal gains. Every day there is a new scandal. That is why this government needs to divert public attention by continuing the war in the Lebanon, but this time against a weaker force.
In this context the cabinet moved further to the right. Following Lieberman's entry into the coalition, the government was asked to approve an expanded military operation that began without any permission from the civilian government.
In response, National Infrastructures Minister, one of the most right-wing in the Labour Party, Bnejamin Ben-Eliezer, called on the Israel military Chief-of-Staff Dan Halutz to resign in a radio interview. He did this in the light of Halutz's failed leadership during the second Lebanon war. He added that Dan Halutz had erred by not taking action against the division commanders who fought the war in Lebanon.
This came after Peretz had told Halutz he would continue to review the proposed appointments. Peretz is upset with the Chief-of-staff's decision to circumvent him and not to dismiss any of the four division commanders. However, the days of Peretz as Minister of War are going to be short after he agreed to the entry of Lieberman into the government as a super minister of war.
The decision of the right-wing leadership of the Labour Party to approve Lieberman's joining the government was approved by a clear majority of the party's central committee. This has created an uproar among the party leadership, as one of the excuses the party used for entering the coalition with Kadima was "to prevent" Lieberman from creating a coalition with Olmert!
A Labour Party that enters a coalition government with a bourgeois party cannot but betray the promises it made to its supporters. As our readers can remember we gave critical support to the Labour Party leadership during the first two weeks of Peretz becoming its leader, when his statements and actions had led the then right wing of the party to quit and join Kadima. At that time Peretz had aroused a spark of hope among working class Jews and Arabs. Now this leadership is not only guilty of conducting an imperialist war, but also of accepting Lieberman into the government. Not surprisingly the Labour Party is now in crisis.
Minister of Culture and Sport, Ophir Pines, who was leading the opposition to the inclusion of Yisrael Beiteinu in the coalition, was backed by Arab MKs and Labour "rebels," such as Danny Yatom, Shelly Yachimovich, and Avishay Braverman. Ophir Pines-Paz has indeed left the government in protest and has promised to form a left-wing faction in the party to contest the leadership in the next primaries. Others like Braverman have refused to enter the government. Whether they will form a faction together on a more serious left-wing programme, depends on one factor: whether the working class in Israel begins to struggle against the government attacks in the next period.
The strongest protest has come from the party's youth organization, who in the past were the strongest supporters of Peretz and had forced the Labour Party prior to the elections to quit the former coalition.
Today' a poll conducted by Haaretz and Dialog under the guidance of Professor Camille Fuchs earlier this week, found that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's approval rating is now only 20 percent. The expansion of the coalition by bringing in Yisrael Beiteinu enjoyed the support of 39 percent of respondents, while 35 percent said that Avigdor Lieberman's inclusion makes the government worse. The number of Knesset seats that Netanyahu's Likud Party would receive if elections were held today has also risen, to 28. Three of those seats came from Yisrael Beiteinu, which dropped from 18 in the last poll to 15 this week.
According to the same poll, Labour would lose one seat since the last poll, dropping to 14, while Kadima has risen by one, to 17. The Pensioners Party has almost evaporated. 82 percent of those polled disapprove of War Minister Amir Peretz. Only 14 percent supported Peretz. Labour also suffers from a 68 percent disapproval rate.
Even more interesting is that if elections were held today for Labour's leadership, with Peretz running against MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who resigned his ministerial post to protest Lieberman's inclusion in the coalition, Pines would win with 45 percent of the vote.
There are clear signs of worker unrest. Today the airport workers' union approved the strike that began yesterday afternoon in protest at plans to layoff 120 temporary airport workers. 500 workers are taking part in the strike, despite an injunction issued by the Tel Aviv District Labour Tribunal ordering them to resume work and despite the call of the Israel Airports Authority for the permanent workers to break the strike and replace the temporary workers on strike.
"The management decided, unexpectedly and behind our backs, and despite negotiations, to send the dismissal notices to the workers. The management is still acting behind our [the workers'] backs, and its purpose is to bypass workers' contracts and block veteran workers from receiving tenure," a member of the labour union said in an interview with a Haaretz reporter.
The rulers of Israel are preparing a new war - and not only in Gaza. The only hope for the Israeli masses who live in this death trap, is the working class whose interest it is to overthrow this rotten ruling class and remove this decaying capitalist system and replace it with a workers' democracy based on a nationalised economy, owned, controlled and managed democratically by the workers, Jews and Arabs alike. As we have said many times before, the only solution to this hell is a socialist federation of the Middle East that will include a federated Israeli/Palestinian workers' state where each nation will have a territorial autonomy.
- The crisis in the Middle East deepens by Yossi Schwartz (October 25, 2006)
- Imperialist manoeuvres and the Franco-American “peace” in Lebanon by Greg Oxley (October 9, 2006)
- Israel-Lebanon: The illusions of peace under imperialist order by Yossi Schwartz (September 25, 2006)
- The fiasco of the Israeli offensive by Greg Oxley (August 23, 2006)
- Lebanon: A kind of a ceasefire by Yossi Schwartz (August 23, 2006)
- War in Lebanon: the first cracks in the Israeli ruling class by Yossi Schwartz (August 11, 2006)