Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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Netanyahu vows to continue peace talks

Posted by claudiacampli su 25 marzo, 2009

IHT

By Isabel Kershner and Alan Cowell

Published: March 25, 2009

JERUSALEM: The prime minister-designate of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Wednesday that the coalition he was forming would be a “partner for peace,” offering a pledge that seemed designed to reshape his reputation as a foe of the peace process with the Palestinians.

The promise brought a muted response from some Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu was delivering a speech to an economic conference in Jerusalem one day after the deeply divided Labor Party voted to join the government he is forming under a coalition agreement that seemed vague on issues pertaining to the peace process.

Labor’s decision Tuesday paved the way for a broader government than the narrow and hawkish one that Mr. Netanyahu would otherwise have had to settle for, increasing his chances of gaining international acceptance and possibly avoiding friction with the Obama administration.

“I think that the Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, for security and for rapid development of the Palestinian economy,” Mr. Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud party, said.

He added that peace was a “common and enduring goal for all Israelis and Israeli governments, mine included. This means I will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority for peace.”

His remarks were relayed on Israel Radio. It remained unclear what terms Mr. Netanyahu was offering for peace.

Likud and Labor negotiators agreed on terms of a deal Tuesday stating that the new government would devise a plan for comprehensive peace in the Middle East; that Israel was committed to all previously signed diplomatic and international agreements; and that the government would work to reach peace accords with all of Israel’s neighbors while preserving Israel’s security and vital interests.

The agreement did not contain any mention of the two-state solution as a goal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but as Shalom Simhon, Labor’s chief negotiator, noted, neither does it rule that out.

Some Palestinians greeted Mr. Netanyahu’s words with caution. “Any Israeli government that accepts the two-state solution, negotiates with us on all core issues without exception and agrees to stop settlement activity will be a partner,” The Associated Press quoted Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian negotiator, as saying. “It’s time for deeds from both sides as far as their commitments are concerned, not words.”

The move by Ehud Barak, Labor’s leader and the current defense minister, to join the coalition has driven a wedge between party members, a division made clear during a stormy convention Tuesday.

Mr. Barak said that a broad government was in the national interest given the looming security challenges and the economic crisis facing Israel, and that Labor could play a more effective role as a counterforce inside the government than as a fifth wheel in the opposition.

“We do not have a spare country,” Mr. Barak told the convention, invoking the words of the revered Labor leader Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995. “I am not afraid of Benjamin Netanyahu; I will not serve as a fig leaf.”

But some of his critics said the decision to join an overwhelmingly right-wing government would spell the end of the center-left Labor Party’s dominant role in shaping the Israeli state.

Of the 1,187 members of Labor’s central committee who voted Tuesday, 680 supported the motion to join the coalition, and 507 opposed it.

After reading out the results of the vote, Eitan Cabel, the Labor Party’s secretary general, who opposed joining a Netanyahu government, called for unity within the party ranks. But some political analysts said they expected to see a leadership battle within the party over the next few months.

Mr. Barak signed a coalition agreement with Mr. Netanyahu hours before the vote stipulating that Mr. Barak would retain the defense portfolio in the new government and giving Labor four other cabinet positions.

Mr. Netanyahu has until April 3 to complete the formation of his coalition.

Alan Cowell reported from Paris.

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