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Breaking: Netanyahu to be Israeli prime minister

Benjamin Netanyahu
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference with Israel’s President Shimon Peres after their meeting in Jerusalem on Friday.

Israeli president Shimon Peres has asked Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the hard-line Likud Party, to form a new government, presumably with Netanyahu himself as prime minister. The NYTimes coverage sums up the situation very well. Netanyahu has six weeks to assemble a majority coalition and made a clear statement that he would prefer a broad national unity government to a bare majority that he could form entirely with right-wing and religious parties. Netanyahu will meet with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday to see if they can work together.

The Jerusalem Post’s latest makes it sound like the idea of Livni agreeing to to join a Netanyahu-led government is not dead but very unlikely.

Livni told Haaretz, Israel’s paper of the left, that she would consider the coalition depending what right-wing parties are included. Netanyahu has also said he would welcome Labor, Israel’s traditional left-leaning party, in the coalition. But all the coverage repeats that Labor, which finished a disastrous fourth in the election, is determined to try to rebuild its standing from the opposition.

Peres, a long-time Labor man, would surely have preferred to see someone other than Netanyahu as P.M., but under Israel’s system, he had little choice.The Obama Admionistration will also not welcome this development, but I don’t know how open they will be about it.

It’s hard to believe that anything in this picture creates much optimism for progress toward Arab-Israeli peace. Livni notes that while Netanyahu talks about wanting peace with Israel’s neighbors, he does not speak of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In such circumstances, optimists usually point out that it took Nixon to go to China and that Likudnik Menachem Begin signed the Camp David accords.

What think?

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 02/20/2009 - 02:03 pm.

    It seems Nixon and Begin are more exceptions than rules. Normally, hardliners are least likely to negotiate, most likely to start wars.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/20/2009 - 05:22 pm.

    and the circumstances are quite different.
    I think that Netanyahu reflects a current Israeli mood, which might be a resignation to an indefinite state of conflict and a loss of any hope for a two state solution in the foreseeable future.

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