Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hussein Ibish: Netanyahu governs like Arafat did

Hussein Ibish, October 25, 2011

An often overlooked irony of contemporary Middle East politics is how deeply reminiscent the governing style of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to that of the late Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat. The mechanics of holding together a fractious national liberation movement bear uncanny similarities to those of cobbling together a diverse coalition within a flawed parliamentary democracy.

For most of its history under Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization was not simply synonymous with Fatah. It was, rather, a contentious coalition of diverse groups from the far left to the moderate right.

Arafat was a master at operating a quota system in which everybody got enough of the action to keep them on board. In more recent years under President Mahmoud Abbas, and particularly Prime Minister Salam Fayyad—who is not a member of either Fatah or the PLO—Palestinians have been moving away from a quota system toward one with elements of meritocracy and the selection of officials based on their ability to perform rather than what faction they represent.

Coalition building in parliamentary democracies frequently involves jockeying for positions between party leaders based on the number of votes they can produce in the legislature. But Netanyahu has managed to create an ideologically crazy-quilt coalition that is nonetheless one of the most stable in Israel's history precisely because all of its members get exactly what they need....READ MORE

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