Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Memories of 96

1996 was a pivotal year in Israeli history.
Between 1976 and 1992, Israel was led by the right wing Likud party. Likud had one mighty achievement, signing the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt, but other than that it didn't seem to go anywhere towards addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict. What we Israelis did have, as of the eighties' end, was the first Intifada.
At 1992's election the public was fed up and voted for the Israeli Labor party, led by Rabin. Optimism was the rule back then: The Oslo agreements were signed between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel retreated from many areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinians were finally able to have some sort of self rule, albeit limited.
Then disaster struck. Towards the end of 1995 (or was it early 1996?), Israel was hit by a wave of suicide bombings that took quite a toll and changed the mood of the public. Obviously, the Palestinians wanted more than they had received, but it seemed Israelis were not willing to give them that. Rabin's popularity declined and eventually, during 1996, the ground was set for him to be murdered by a right wing Israeli nut case.
Regression followed. In the election taking place a month or two after Rabin's assassination the Likud party rose to power yet again, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. His election was a shock to every left wing Israeli, including yours truly. His achievements were rather miserable: Highlights of his reign included riots breaking as a result of Israel opening tunnels under the Temple Mount for tourism, a move Arab interpreted as Israel taking ownership of the holy places. Currently back at Israel's helm, Netanyahu's latest highlight is the Flotilla affair.
Most of all, though, I suspect the pages of history will remember Netanyahu as a leader who took Israel back from the position of a leading initiator of peace to a jealous holder of land it presumes its own.

History, it seems, has a way of repeating itself. My impression is that Australia is now standing at a crossroad not dissimilar to the one Israelis faced back in 1996.
After more than ten years in power, Australia's Howard so called Liberal government was finally kicked out of office in 2007. In my view, this reign was a symbol of xenophobia and regression hidden under the camouflage of financial success that was mostly the result of global prosperity. Besides, that financial success did not materialize in anything other than making the rich richer.
Thus when Kevin Rudd burst into the scene, promising to transform the face of Australia from the negative into a positive and welcoming society he was warmly elected. One of Rudd's main attractions was his promise to deal with global warming, and indeed he seemed to deliver at first: immediately upon coming into office Rudd ratified the Kyoto agreement.
Since then, however, Rudd seems to have been nothing more than a burst balloon quickly running out of air. His Emissions Trading Scheme failed to pass, and rightly so; it was pathetic. Now, with Labor stating it will not pursue global warming initiatives till 2013, the public is abandoning Rudd - and Labor.
The result? The latest polls show that if elections were to be held today the Liberals would win. As much as I despise Rudd for his lack of spine, the thought of the Liberal leader Tony Abbott standing at the helm of Australia sends shivers through my spine. It clearly reminds me of the shivers I had felt in 1996, when Netanyahu was elected, shivers that were shared by many others (I remember the radio playing R.E.M.'s "It's the end of the world as we know it" way too often back then).
The people who are serious in their intentions to vote for Abbott because they're disappointed with Rudd are either seriously dumb or ignorant. These people seem to have forgotten what Tony Abbott really stands for. Read this excellent article by Leslie Cannold for a summary of what Abbott stands for and see if you can really bring yourself to vote for the guy.
Most importantly, remember that Australia's preferential voting system allows you to pick and choose exactly who you want to see in power. If you're disappointed with Rudd, as you should be, there are other alternatives; you don't have to go from bad to worse. Australia's politic scene is more than a two horse race.

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