Posts Tagged ‘Netanyahu’

From Israel, a Cloudy Outlook

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

(Return to Jewish Week Homepage)

Being in Israel in the days just after the national elections didn’t leave me any clearer on what the next government will look like. It could be a narrow right-tilted coalition led by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, or a broader coalition anchored by Likud and Kadima, the party with the most votes.

Netanyahu most probably would be prime minister in that case, too.

But it is already clear that the Left took a beating in the polls, and that Kadima, the party founded by Ariel Sharon and now led by Tzipi Livni, was the prime culprit.

The once dominant Labor party received only 10 Knesset seats, and seemed eager to go into opposition and rebuild, licking its wounds.

It was the same Kadima that, in the last election, knocked out the Right by preaching peace negotiations based on West Bank concessions.

Instead, the settlements have grown and the party preaching peace talks came up empty; in fact Ehud Olmert became the first prime minister to go to war twice in one (shortened) term.

No one I spoke to in Israel this past week is under any illusion of imminent peace, agreeing that Israel’s potential partner - Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority - is too weak to risk an agreement with the Jewish State. The leaders of Hamas would pounce on the West Bank if that were to happen.

Several liberal thinkers said it would be a critical mistake on the part of the Obama administration to go forward with George Bush’s ill-conceived Annapolis plan, attempting to shape the framework for a detailed, future peace plan.

More realistic, the critics said, was Netanyahu’s concept of an economic peace plan aimed at bringing more prosperity to the Palestinians in preparation of a future Palestinian state.

But Bibi has been pretty vague about those details, as have been the other top candidates in an election campaign that shed little light on the top parties’ positions on the vital issues of the day, from Hamas rocket attacks to the troubled economy to a nuclear Iran.

Signup for our weekly email newsletter here.

Check out the Jewish Week’s Facebook page and become a fan!  And follow the Jewish Week on Twitter: start here.

Hamas Boosting Bibi?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

(Return to Jewish Week Homepage)

Follow the Jewish Week on Twitter! Click here to start

Does the resumption this week of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, in violation of the fragile and unofficial truce between Hamas and Jerusalem, signal a Hamas endorsement of Bibi Netanyahu for Israeli prime minister?

That’s the likely effect of renewed attacks on Israel on the eve of next Tuesday’s national elections. The rockets underscore that despite the beating Hamas took last month, the terror group still rules Gaza and can still make life miserable for Israelis, especially those living in the south.

Netanyahu supported the war effort but has been saying, before and after the three-week conflict, that he would topple Hamas from power. It’s likely that many Israelis will want him to try to do just that. And in the crazy-quilt world of Mideast politics, such talk makes him more — rather than less — appealing to Hamas, a group that opposes peace negotiations. And those talks would be that much more unlikely with Netanyahu in power.

Israelis tend to vote to the right when they are feeling insecure, and are inclined to “give peace a chance,” as John Lennon put it, when their lives are more at ease.

Netanyahu has been enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls for months, and even though Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is running as the head of Labor, gained ground on the strength of the IDF’s performance in the Gaza conflict, it’s more likely that most Israeli would prefer that he keep his present post.

Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and Kadima leader, didn’t really improve her standing among an electorate that credits her for being honest - no small thing in Israeli politics, especially when your opponents are Netanyahu and Barak. But she still appears to lack leadership qualities for the country’s top office.

This would not be the first time Palestinian terror played a significant role in an Israeli election. In 1996, Shimon Peres seemed likely to succeed the slain Yitzhak Rabin until a spate of PLO suicide bombings just before the election turned Israelis to Netanyahu, who won handily.

And in early 2001, incumbent Barak, who was ready to make major concessions at Camp David a few months earlier, was voted out of office by a wide margin with the onset of the second intifada. Ariel Sharon, Israel’s tough guy, was the big winner then.

All of which indicates that Israel’s enemies have a history of playing a pivotal role in the Jewish State’s elections.