Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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

Israeli Parliament Approves Netanyahu as Prime Minister

Posted by valecardia su 1 aprile, 2009


JERUSALEM, March 31 — Israel’s parliament on Tuesday approved Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister, ushering in a government at odds with international expectations that Israel should pursue negotiations that would lead to an independent Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s government — a coalition that includes nationalist, ultra-Orthodox and social democratic factions, as well as his own Likud party — says it represents an electorate that has soured on peace talks with the Palestinians, grown weary over rocket fire from Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip, and become increasingly worried about Iranian influence and nuclear technology.

Netanyahu has promised to confront what he calls “extreme Islam” and fend off international pressure for territorial compromise with the Palestinians. He says he can do more to improve relations with the Palestinians by strengthening the economy in the occupied West Bank than other Israeli leaders have achieved in years of inconclusive negotiations.

Those discussions will continue, he said Tuesday, and have as their aim more Palestinian self-rule. “We do not want to govern another people,” he said. “I am telling the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, if you really want peace, it is possible to reach peace.”

But he said his efforts as prime minister will not be consumed with negotiating the international borders of an independent Palestinian state, a task implicit in the idea of a two-state solution that forms the basis of U.S. and international policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Economic and security cooperation between the two sides, he said, will be the priorities.

Netanyahu’s approach bridges the central divisions in Israeli society even as it raises the risk of a breach in Israel’s relations with the Obama administration and the European Union.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners are hardly of one mind. The weeks since February’s elections have been spent in intense bartering over agreements that will allow the Labor Party, traditionally considered part of the country’s peace camp, to coexist with members of the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, whose leader, Avigdor Lieberman, is so mistrustful of Palestinians and of Arabs with Israeli citizenship that he campaigned on a pledge to introduce a national loyalty oath.

The resulting quilt of cabinet portfolios, subdivided ministries and financial promises has put Netanyahu in charge of one of Israel’s largest cabinets and led to early criticism that he abandoned conservative economics to make deals.

Concern also grew overseas as the shape of his cabinet became clear, particularly with Lieberman’s appointment as foreign minister and emergence as one of the government’s top three figures, along with Labor Party leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu himself.

As Israel’s top diplomat, Lieberman takes office having to combat a perception that he holds racist views about Arabs, and confronting the suspicion, particularly strong among Palestinians, that his residence in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank makes him emblematic of the problem rather than part of the solution. A freeze on settlement expansion is a core Palestinian demand.

The situation “looks bleak from a Palestinian perspective,” said Palestinian pollster and analyst Khalil Shikaki. “No political agreement. No change on the ground. Increased settlements.”

Coalition agreements signed by Netanyahu, Lieberman and the other coalition partners in recent days make no mention of a Palestinian state. Included instead are promises to abide by previous “international agreements”; a commitment to toppling Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement that controls Gaza; and efforts to “prevent the nuclear armament of Iran.” Sixty-nine members of the 120-seat parliament, or Knesset, voted Tuesday to approve the new government.

Western governments are also wary of Iran’s nuclear program and agree that Hamas — which won Palestinian elections in 2006 — needs to stop firing rockets into Israel and recognize the Jewish state before it can become part of any negotiations.

But E.U. officials have said that Netanyahu’s refusal to commit to an independent Palestinian state would have consequences, such as the disruption of improved trade ties. The Obama administration has not made its Middle East policy explicit, but there are strong hints of the direction. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has criticized aspects of Israeli settlement policy, and President Obama last week called progress toward an independent Palestinian state “critical.”

“I am not setting aside the significance of the difficulties” that the new coalition will face when it comes to pressure from the outside, said Eli Yishai, a Knesset member from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and the new interior minister. “It won’t be easy.”

Netanyahu, born in 1949 and among the first generation of political leaders to be native Israelis, is a veteran of the elite Sayerat Matkal military unit, and his brother Jonathan was one of the commanders of the famed 1976 raid that freed passengers on a hijacked airliner at Uganda’s Entebbe airport. He was killed in the operation.

As prime minister in the late 1990s, Netanyahu ceded territory to the Palestinians under pressure from President Bill Clinton, putting his government at risk of a collapse that opponents soon engineered.

This time, public sentiment may be equally unforgiving.

“The question is whether he wants to be good to Obama or be good to his coalition partners,” said Yoel Hasson, a parliament member from the centrist Kadima party, the faction of outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert and now the leading opposition group. “Wait a few months and we’ll see what he can do.”

Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 1, 2009; Page A11




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