Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Likud’s Netanyahu Tasked With Assembling New Israeli Government

Posted by valecardia su 20 febbraio, 2009


JERUSALEM, Feb. 20 — Ten days after inconclusive national elections, Israeli President Shimon Peres formally asked Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday to form the next government. Although the centrist Kadima party, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, won 28 seats to Likud’s 27, a majority of parliament members said they supported Netanyahu for prime minister.

Livni has said she will not join a Netanyahu-led government and is prepared to lead Kadima into opposition.

If Netanyahu is unable to change Livni’s mind, he will form a narrow right-wing government made up of 65 out of 120 Knesset members. Several of the far-right parties in the government have already said they would join a Likud-led coalition. But they are demanding that Netanyahu expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a move that would put the new Israeli government on a collision course with the Obama administration. And the smaller parties disagree among themselves on religious and other issues.

Netanyahu has six weeks to form a coalition, by either overcoming those divisions or convincing Livni and the head of the Labor Party, Ehud Barak, to join him in a broad unity government. A poll published in the Jerusalem Post newspaper this week found two-thirds of the Israeli public support a broad national unity government.

“Let’s unite to secure the future of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said, addressing Livni and Barak, after meeting with Peres on Friday. “I ask to meet with you first to discuss a broad national unity government.”

But at least for now, both Barak and Livni say they will go into opposition.

“A broad coalition has no value if it does not lead the way,” Livni said after meeting Peres. “This is a coalition that will damage the country.”

If Netanyahu is unable to convince Livni to join his government, he will turn to a series of smaller parties who have already said they will be part of his coalition. The largest of these, Yisrael Beitenu, is headed by Russian-born Avigdor Lieberman and won 15 seats in the elections, edging out the center-left Labor party. Yisrael Beitenu — Hebrew for “Israel Our Home” — is widely supported by Israel’s Russian immigrant population, which includes an estimated 300,000 people who are not legally Jewish according to Orthodox Jewish law. The party wants a law permitting civil marriage and divorce in Israel, which currently allows only religious marriage and divorce proceedings. Lieberman has also sparked controversy in Israel with his support of a loyalty oath that Arab citizens of Israel would be forced to take to maintain their citizenship.

Lieberman’s call for civil marriage is anathema to another of Netanyahu’s expected coalition partners, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. Shas spokesmen have said they would not stay in any government that supports civil marriage.

Two other small right-wing parties have said their price for joining the government is a promise from Netanyahu to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This would counteract the U.S.-backed road map to peace, which calls on Israel to freeze all building in the West Bank.

Jewish settlement leaders said they hoped a narrow Netanyahu government will allow them to build homes for hundreds of families who are on waiting lists to move into the settlements. They also hope that more than 100 existing but illegal outposts, often a handful of mobile homes set up on a hill to try to control as much of the West Bank as possible, will be legalized.

“I hope the new government has the courage to do this,” said Dani Dayan, the head of the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization of the 275,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. “At the same time, look at former prime minister Ariel Sharon. We were his most ardent supporters, we helped him get in, and then he withdrew from Gaza. After that I say you can never really know.”

Israeli analysts say Netanyahu is likely to form a right-wing government but continue making overtures to Livni.

“Netanyahu has made it perfectly clear that a narrow right-wing government is not the government he wants,” said Joseph Alpher, the co-editor of a joint Israeli-Palestinian Web site http://www.bitterlemons.org and the former head of a prestigious think tank in Israel. “The question is how strong is Netanyahu’s distaste for a right-wing government and to what extent will that lead him to make more concessions to Livni?”

Livni has said that she would only join a Netanyahu-led government if there was a rotation agreement, making her prime minister after two years. Netanyahu has so far refused this demand.

Alpher says the rightist parties will pressure Netanyahu to expand settlements and will threaten to withdraw from the coalition if he refuses.

At the same time, he says, Netanyahu lost the 1999 election in Israel partly because he was seen in Israel as not having good relations with President Bill Clinton.

“The Israeli public does not want its leader to be persona non grata in the White House, Cairo or Amman,” he said. “Ten years after Netanyahu lost an election he has another opportunity. He understands a narrow right-wing government will be on a collision course with the U.S., and the public will punish him for it.”

By Linda Gradstein

Special to The Washington Post
Friday, February 20, 2009; 10:32 AM




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