We can now say with some certainty that the Gaza assault swift strengthened the extreme right in both Israel and Palestine. In Israel, the center-right lost to a coalition of the far-right and the extreme-right. Avigdor Lieberman's rise was perhaps the clearest example of this: Lieberman advocates loyalty oaths for Israeli Arabs (those who refuse would be stripped of their citizenship) and execution for any Arab Knesset member -- that is to say, Israeli-Arab members of the Israeli parliament -- who meet with Hamas. And don't take it from me. Marty Peretz -- Marty Peretz! -- writes that Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is our Home") is "a neo-fascist list headed by a Russian immigrant and certified gangster, Avigdor Lieberman, who is the Israeli equivalent of Jorg Haider of Austria (now dead) and Jean-Marie LePen." Yisrael Beiteinu is now the third largest party in the country, ahead of the once dominant Labor, and is likely to be the second most powerful member of the governing coalition.The best part is summary execution for Arab Knesset members who meet with Hamas, presumably for any reason whatsoever. Sounds reasonable.
Meanwhile, in the Occupied Territories, Hamas's popularity has soared. About half of the Palestinians said Hamas won the Gaza war, while less than 10 per cent said Israel had triumphed. More troubling, a snap election would, according to the survey, hand Hamas a win of 28.6 percent of the vote, up from 19.3 percent last April. This would put it ahead of the rival Fatah party, which has seen its support plummet from 34 percent last April to 27.9 percent. And Hamas's lead is even larger in the West Bank -- which Fatah formerly controlled -- than in Gaza. Meanwhile, the changes within Hamas are predictable too: The hardliners have been empowered, and those who saw their post-election mission as bringing some level of normalcy to the lives of Palestinians have lost power to those who believe revolutionary struggle is the only path forward. And thus the violent extremists feed off, and strengthn, one another.
I imagine this is probably not what Olmert had in mind. But it was probably inevitable: Klein is absolutely right that this sort of conflict only strengthens the hand of violent extremists. Well, they're strengthened. Democratically, too.