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As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict deepens and the death toll nears 300, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak has called fresh elections for next year. Meanwhile, US President Bill Clinton, fearing an new regional war, is again offering new peace talks to end the conflict. Mandy Rabin, Maavak Sozialisti (CWI, Israel), reports on the crisis facing the Israels ruling class and capitalism.
Israeli Government: One Big disaster
SINCE TAKING power a year-and a half ago in a landslide victory, Barak's government has been one massive disaster.
In his election campaign, he raised massive hopes among workers and youth. He promised to jump-start the economy, to provide free education from kindergarten to university, to create 300,000 new jobs in order to defeat unemployment, to end religious coercion, to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon as part of a peace deal with Syria, and to reach a comprehensive, lasting peace with the Palestinians.
Barak has not fulfilled even one of his promises. Instead, his government has made cuts in health and education spending has cut unemployment benefit, and has made dirty deals with the ultra-orthodox parties, providing funding for religious institutions in return for political support.
After a hasty, ill-planned retreat under fire from Lebanon, the Oslo peace process now lies in ruins, with Israel in the midst of a bloody and protracted war against the Palestinians.
It is no wonder that Barak's government has been such a disappointment and disaster - capitalism is incapable of solving the crisis of unemployment, in education, welfare, security and peace in Israel.
Moreover, ten years of attacks on workers by consecutive governments has led to yawning gaps between rich and poor and the alienation of Jewish workers from the state. This has made it increasingly difficult for the capitalist class to maintain their rule through a stable government based on one of the two main capitalist parties - Labour and Likud.
As disgruntled Israeli workers began to look around for an alternative to the two parties which had betrayed them, dozens of smaller parties have mushroomed, at the expense of the two establishment parties, forcing the ruling party to govern by means of unstable coalitions.
The ruling class sought to solve this problem, and provide for stable government by introducing a new, two-vote system - one vote for prime minister, one vote for the party in the Knesset - in order to strengthen the prime minister's rule.
BUT NOT solving the fundamental causes of political instability - poverty and unemployment - this new, two-vote system has simply exacerbated the problem: under the new electoral system, both Netanyahu and now Barak have been forced to rely on broad coalitions of small parties with diverse ideologies, in order to rule, and both were forced early elections.
Ehud Barak's dolly mixture coalition, including both ultra orthodox and secular parties, and parties favouring a peace agreement with the Palestinians, as well as those representing the hard-line settlers, was unmanageable.
Initially, each party demanded funding for its sector in return for political support, and as the government became increasingly unpopular, especially as a result of its attacks on workers and youth, so the coalition parties began to jump ship.
For many months now, Barak has been limping forward with a lame duck government that has minority support in the Knesset and is hated by a large section of workers and youth.
Barak announced new elections in order to pre-empt a vote of no confidence in the government, which was due to take place a couple of hours later, that would have anyway toppled the government and prompted new elections.
The two-vote system has been a disaster for the ruling class, making it even more difficult for them to form a stable government. They will make every effort to abolish the two-vote system before the coming elections and return to the old system of one vote only, for the party.
Barak is so hated, that many workers want to vote for Netanyahu (if he returns to politics), if only to get revenge on Barak. But Israel is a fast-moving, turbulent country, and a lot could happen between now and next year's elections.
In The Socialist 8 December 2000: