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CRACKS IN NETANYAHU'S COALITION

In light of Israel's international isolation, Coalition Members Lapid & Livni Press Prime Minister Netanyahu: Do something already!

IsraCast Suggestion: Netanyahu should offer another halt to building in Judea & Samaria in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel as Jewish state.

Media advice to President Rivlin: Remember KISS principle, "Keep it simple stupid!"

from top left going clockwise: MK Lapid, PM Netanyahu, MK Mitzna, MK Hanegbi, MK Bennett, president elect Rivlin, MK Herzog, MK Livni

 Israel now faces international isolation - that is what Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's diplomacy has achieved on the Palestinian track. Make no mistake, this has all the components of weakening Israel's international position and could eventually topple his coalition government. First the PM lost the 'blame game' to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by letting Housing Minister Uri Ariel announce plans for building new housing units on the disputed West Bank.  U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry pointed the finger at Netanyahu. Adding insult to injury, Abbas then gambled that he could join forces with terrorist Hamas and this would not upset the U.S. and the rest of the international community. He proved to be right...

 

Netanyahu and his inner security cabinet went completely off the rails by announcing plans to construct another four thousand homes in the territories.

 In an angry response, as if to teach the Palestinians a lesson, Netanyahu and his inner security cabinet went completely off the rails by announcing plans to construct another four thousand homes in the territories. Was this not pouring more fuel on the fire? Within hours there was a predictable wave of condemnation, starting with the White House. Even government supporters were critical: "Israel shot itself in the foot", wrote prominent Israeli commentator, Dan Margalit, writing in ' Yisrael Hayom', a pro-Netanyahu newspaper. But for Naftali Bennett, the leader of the far Right 'Jewish Home' party this was still not enough. Bennett called for Israel to annex some parts of the West Bank. While the country was still reeling, it was only a matter of time before cracks started appearing in Netanyahu's coalition government, which includes two centrist parties that demand a serious peace process with the Palestinians.


 

 Lapid & Livni urge Netanyahu to initiate...

 

Tzipi Livni

 First, MK Amram Mitzna of Tzipi Livni's party called Netanyahu a 'coward' for refusing to take on Bennett and hardliners in his own Likud party. Mitzna urged the Movement party to immediately quit the government, however, party leader Livni contended that all was not lost and Israel should observe how the Abbas-Hamas amalgamation pans out. Meanwhile Israel should 'keep channels open with the U.S. and the Palestinians'. In any case, Livni's six MKs could not topple the 68 member coalition in the 120 member Knesset. But Yair Lapid's 19 Mks could do just that. Until now, Finance Minister Lapid has been up to his ears wrestling with the economy while steering clear of the Palestinian quagmire. But with Jerusalem and Washington now embroiled in a shouting match over settlements, Lapid was obligated to put his oar in. Lapid threatened to bring down the government if Netanyahu agreed to annex even one settlement.

Lapid threatened to bring down the government if Netanyahu agreed to annex even one settlement... "Israel should present detailed maps that represented a broad national consensus..."

 On the other hand, it was high time for Israel to map out a border on the West Bank. He was confident the sides would get back to the table eventually, and when they did: "Israel should present detailed maps that represented a broad national consensus. These maps would enable us to define a three-stage program leading to a total separation with the Palestinians, and a comprehensive agreement with the Arab states. In the first stage, Israel would withdraw from areas that would not necessitate the evacuation of settlements. In the second stage, isolated settlements would be evacuated to the existing settlement blocs on the West Bank (which will presumably remain part of sovereign Israel). In stage three the demarcation of the remaining border with the Palestinians that would include territorial swaps as well as other issues."

 

MK Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party

 Lapid succeeded in ruffling Netanyahu's feathers. The PM fired back: "Anyone who has experience in security affairs and negotiations knows there should be no concessions without a reciprocal response. Certainly this applies to a (Palestinian) government that has now included a terror organization bent on destroying Israel. Any map we present will serve as the starting point for Palestinian demands. We all witnessed the result of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza." (DE: over 11,000 rockets and mortars launched at Israel).


The Netanyahu government is comprised of diametrically opposed parties when it comes to forging a unified program. In Netanyahu's own Likud party, a majority of the Knesset caucus reject the two-state solution proposed by their leader.

 Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also chipped in by admonishing the government leaders who were gushing forth with differing positions. In his view, the cabinet should adopt a unified peace proposal. But that is far easier said than done. The Netanyahu government is comprised of diametrically opposed parties when it comes to forging a unified program. In Netanyahu's own Likud party, a majority of the Knesset caucus reject the two-state solution proposed by their leader. (Lieberman seemed to momentarily forget that he also formulated a controversial scheme to swap a densely populated Arab region inside Israel, known as the Arab Triangle, for Palestinian territory on the West Bank. In this scenario, the Israeli Arabs would remain in their homes and the area, lock, stock and barrel; they would simply start living in their new Palestinian state. Isn't that what they would want after living in apartheid Israel? Pretty slick, but with one hitch. The Israeli Arab residents in the proposed swap are not nuts; they would never agree to give up the social benefits and standard of living they now enjoy in the Jewish state).


 

 Political pyromania...


MK Yitzhak Herzog of the Labor Party

 Over in the opposition, Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog accused the coalition of 'political pyromania', and called on Lapid and Livni to join forces in toppling the government. In his opinion, Netanyahu is a prisoner of the far Right, which is opposed to the two-state solution. Question: Do the far Right politicians not realize that if the whole world is opposed to Israeli settlement building, then the government would be wise to pay attention? And now comes America's acceptance of a Palestinian government that includes terrorist Hamas.


 

"Several years ago, Israel was a voice in the wilderness warning that the Iranians were developing nuclear weapons. Now...the whole world has reached a similar conclusion...this will also be the case with regard to our opposition to...terrorist Hamas joining the Palestinian government."

 Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi argued this was not the first time Israel has stood alone and proven to be right: "Several years ago, Israel was a voice in the wilderness warning that the Iranians were developing a nuclear weapons project. Now nearly the whole world has reached a similar conclusion and is finally doing something about it. I believe this will also be the case with regard to our opposition to the American and international acceptance of terrorist Hamas joining the Palestinian government." (DE: Hanegbi could also have referred to the Israeli air strike on Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor that was about to go hot in 1981. At the time the U.S. led the charge of international castigation of the Jewish state. President Ronald Reagan even imposed sanctions on the supply of American jets to Israel. But when the dust settled, not only the U.S., but also the rest of the Free world commended Israel for preventing the Iraqi tyrant from acquiring atomic bombs).


 

 There are always the ultra-orthodox...


"Livni lacks enough MK’s, whereas Lapid wouldn't dare because he'd get clobbered in an early election."

 But what if Lapid and Livni make good on their demands and eventually try to oust the coalition by quitting the government? Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who has been acting as the town crier for the new building plans on the West Bank, is not worried: "Livni lacks enough MK’s, whereas Lapid wouldn't dare because he'd get clobbered in an early election." On second thought, Ariel makes no bones about the possibility that Netanyahu, with Bennett's support, could simply turn to the ultra-orthodox parties and make them a deal they wouldn't refuse. (Such as revoking the new law that obligates ultra-orthodox men to serve in the IDF and restoring financial handouts.)


 

7th PM of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir (photo credit: SA 3.0)
This goal of striving for coordination between Jerusalem and Washington has been the guiding light...for all Israeli prime ministers with the memorable exception of the uncompromising Yitzhak Shamir...who lost the next election...

 In Israeli political folklore, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion uttered the memorable saying 'Um-shmum!' Um is the Hebrew acronym for the UN. In other words, Ben Gurion was saying, 'to hell with the UN' when it comes to Israel's vital interests. However, Ben Gurion was very aware of Israel's need for international support, as evidenced by his acceptance of the 1947 partition plan and his swift withdrawal from Sinai at the behest of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower after the 1956 war with Egypt. This goal of striving for coordination between Jerusalem and Washington has been the guiding light, more or less, for all Israeli prime ministers, including Menachem Begin. There was one memorable exception, the uncompromising Yitzhak Shamir, who took on President Bush the Elder and his Secretary of State James Baker over the Palestinian issue; Shamir lost the next election, possibly as a result of Washington's penalizing Israel financially.


 

MK Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home Party

 For many Israelis, what is most exasperating about Israel's diplomatic predicament is that Netanyahu could have prevented it by putting a muzzle on Housing Minister Ariel and revoking the announcements about more settlement building. The problem was that even if he had tried to, the far Right, including his own Likud, would have rebelled. On the other hand, Abbas was as uncompromising as ever in the Kerry negotiations, even refusing to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. In addition, he joined forces with Hamas and violated his pledge not to circumvent the negotiations by appealing to UN bodies for recognition. On the plus side, Abbas did order his security forces to continue cracking down on Palestinian terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank.


 

 IsraCast proposal...

 

Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

 If Netanyahu continues to stand in the middle of the road and do nothing 'constructive' except for constructing homes in the West Bank, Israel will get run over diplomatically - again. What's to be done? Israeli announcements of new settlement building in the territories are perceived by the international community as a declaration of intent not to negotiate sincerely on the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. On the other hand, if the Israeli government really supports the two-state solution, an Israeli decision to halt settlement building would serve as a de facto recognition that this territory will be allocated for a future Palestinian state. (With the exception of the settlement blocs and territory required for security arrangements). As long as this current situation continues Israel is going to be blamed for the stalemate.

 

 Recommendation: In keeping with Prime Minister Netanyahu's position that there are no free lunches in peace negotiations, Israel should offer to halt settlement building outside of the settlement blocs (Maale Adumim, the Etzion bloc and Ariel). In return, Israel would require the Palestinians to formally recognize Israel as the Jewish state.


 

 Reuven 'Reuvi' Rivlin Israel's new President


Reuven Rivlin

 How come several Arab Knesset Members, far-Left MK Shelly Yachimovich of Labor, and a number of ultra-orthodox MKs voted for Israel's new president, who is a Land of Israel loyalist opposed to the two-state solution? Simply because Reuvi (as he is known in Israel in the same manner that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is called Bibi) is liked or loved by just about everyone with one possible exception - Bibi himself.


 

 As former Speaker of the Knesset, Rivlin clashed swords with the PM insisting that he stick to the letter of protocol and vigorously calling him to order when he didn't. Right across the political board in the Knesset, whether they were Arab or far Left MKs, Rivlin defended their parliamentary rights. As a political reporter who came to know him well over the years, I can attest that Reuvi's warm and respectful attitude to everyone has won him many friends and gained him the reputation of a straight shooter and a true democrat. A lawyer by training, he has an unblemished record in parliament and politics. But how does he justify his opposition to the two-state solution and a new Arab country alongside Israel as stipulated in the 1947 Partition Plan (which the Arabs actually rejected)? Reuvi makes no bones about it - the Biblical Land of Israel, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, belongs to the Jewish people. But on the other hand, he believes that with goodwill, Jews and Palestinians can build a unified country with equal rights, where everyone would live happily ever after. If everyone had the same easygoing personality as Reuvi maybe it could work, but is it realistic?


 

IsraCast's David Essing with Reuvin Rivlin

 Of course he is an odd ball on Israel's stage - the exact opposite of such iconic and articulate figures as the current President Shimon Peres, and Bibi Netanyahu. This is where I would offer some media advice to my, and every one's friend, the future President Reuven Rivlin:

 

 

 

  • You are so bursting with enthusiasm and ideas that this prompts you to interview with long rapid-fire responses that can bury your key point. It is not necessary to say everything at one go.
  • This is particularly important on TV - think in terms of formulating your main messages in sounds bites of up to ten seconds that the reporter can insert into his report.

 Other than that, Reuvi should do just fine.






 

 David Essing




 

 PS: The state president, whose powers are limited does have the right to grant pardons and on this score, I suspect that wayward politicians such as former President Moshe Katsav, who is now serving jail time for sexual assault, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is appealing his prison term for accepting a bribe, are pleased that Reuvi has been elected. Obviously, they will be considering his charitable nature when filing future appeals for pardons, if need be in Olmert's case.

 

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