Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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Netanyahu faces test as cabinet takes office

Posted by valecardia su 30 marzo, 2009

THE NATIONAL

TEL AVIV // As Benjamin Netanyahu presents to Israel’s parliament today a new government dominated by opponents to Palestinian statehood, he will be challenged with trying to avert a diplomatic crisis amid international concerns that his cabinet would hinder progress on a two-state solution.

Mr Netanyahu, the head of the right-wing Likud party who served as prime minister from 1996-1999, will preside over a coalition of mostly nationalist and religious parties that altogether include 69 members of Israel’s 120-member parliament.
Mr Netanyahu’s second chance at the premiership is bound to be anything but easy.


Most prominently, the hawkish leanings of his government may spur clashes with firm backers (United States) and allies (the European Union and Mideast peace partners Egypt or Jordan).

Their concerns have been heightened by the resistance of a majority of his coalition’s members to the establishment of an autonomous Palestinian state and their support for Jewish settlement expansion in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In the past week, as Mr Netanyahu scrambled to finalise his cabinet, the international community has made no secret of its reservations.

On Friday, Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech foreign minister whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, warned Israel that there would be “consequences” if it does not accept the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He added that “relations would become very difficult indeed” should Israel not adopt the concept. Indeed, analysts said such tensions may halt plans to upgrade Israel’s ties with the EU.

Barack Obama, the US president, who has affirmed his commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state, last week said with Mr Netanyahu’s government, the likelihood of a peace deal is “not easier than it was, but I think it’s just as necessary”.

Egypt, a former enemy with whom Israel maintains an often frosty 30-year peace agreement, also suggested it is not hopeful about its neighbour’s new administration.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, was quoted this week as saying: “The formation they are speaking of for a new government does not inspire optimism … we have not heard until now any encouraging commitments at all from people expected to join the upcoming government.”

International concerns have centred on Mr Netanyahu’s appointment of Avigdor Lieberman, an anti-Arab ultranationalist legislator, as foreign minister and on most of the coalition’s factions advocating for the continued construction of West Bank settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Analysts said yesterday that while Mr Netanyahu’s success last week in adding the centre-left Labor party to his coalition may gain him some international legitimacy, it may also destabilise his government.

“Everyday life in the coalition would not be easy because of the wide ideological distance between Labor and the other parties,” said Gideon Rahat, a political science lecturer at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

According to Mr Rahat, the coalition may even face collapse if a peace agreement with the Palestinians becomes feasible.
Indeed, analysts said that while Mr Netanyahu has proven to be a pragmatist who may be open to negotiations on Palestinian statehood, he is bound to face fierce opposition to a deal from ideological hardliners from his own party and from other coalition factions.

However, Mr Rahat suggested that the friction between the western-backed Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, and the Islamic group Hamas, which rules Gaza, would give Mr Netanyahu an excuse not to proceed with talks on a Palestinian state.

“The Palestinians are not united and therefore supply Israel with the justification not to do much,” he said.
“Netanyahu will be in trouble once the Palestinians are talking with one pragmatic voice.”

The new government’s approach to the Palestinians also faces opposition from left wing groups at home.

Peace Now, an Israeli organisation that tracks, and advocates against, Jewish settlement expansion, plans to demonstrate today outside of parliament under the slogan: “This is Not Unity – it is Right Wing Extremism.”

The slogan criticises Mr Netanyahu’s claim that he has formed a unity government with Labor and Mr Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu that broadly represents the Israeli public.

Mr Netanyahu starts his new term as Ehud Olmert, a veteran Israeli politician who served as premier since 2006, makes his political exit.

Mr Olmert’s resignation as prime minister last year as he faced a string of police corruption investigations had triggered the process that led to February’s national elections.

Mr Olmert, first elected to parliament in 1973 at the age of 28, is leaving politics after a tumultuous premiership mired by domestic accusations that the government mishandled Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon and failed to achieve its goals in the recent onslaught against Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Mr Olmert would also likely be remembered for leading unsuccessful negotiations with the Palestinians on a two-state solution for more than a year, and appearing to reap no tangible results from indirect talks with Syria that have been frozen since December.

“Olmert is going home and isn’t leaving behind him any legacy – just embarrassments,” wrote Shalom Yerushalmi, a commentator for the mass-selling daily newspaper Maariv.

“There is no chance he will be back. He has no public support, and will probably not be missed.”

Vita Bekker, Foreign Correspondent

Last Updated: March 30. 2009 11:35PM UAE / March 30. 2009 7:35PM GMT

http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090331/FOREIGN/449041008/1135

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