As is typical of him, he did a fair amount of vacillation, providing potential voters a mixed message that left them confused. On one day he took an admirable stand with regard to intention to build in E1, and he certainly saw to it that the illegal tents that Arabs erected there were removed promptly. He declared that there would be no mass movement of Jews out of Judea and Samaria during his next term, as well. But then he said that he would be governing on the basis of his Bar Ilan speech, which called for a "demilitarized Palestinian state." Methinks that sometimes an effort to please everyone pleases no one.
On learning of the election results, the prime minister seemed pleased, and declared himself grateful to be given the opportunity to lead the country for another four years. Of course he would say this, but I think at a very basic level it is his party that is hurting, more than he. (I have yet to take a careful look at the list to see which Likud candidates lost out.)
Netanyahu said, and I consider this admirable, that he would be focused on Iran in his next term. There are those who suggest that he didn't discuss this during his campaign because he sensed that people don't want to hear it. Thus was focus -- such as there was focus -- on matters such as less expensive housing.
He also said that he would be forming a broad coalition. This would be his style. He has no interest that I can discern in forming a right-religious coalition. The guessing now is that he will include Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, UTJ, and Yesh Atid. It seems unlikely that he will bring in Livni, for a host of reasons. But we should never say never, I suppose. Livni is angling for inclusion.
What a broader coalition does -- while it makes nationalist goals more difficult to achieve -- is to provide him with a fig leaf, cover before the world so that it's clear he is operating from a broad consensus. This would be a good and even necessary thing were he to decide to hit Iran, for example. It should never be said that the "right wing crazies" promoted a dangerous action. And similarly concerning our relationship with the Arabs.
I should mention here that the Likud list is more right wing than has been the case in the past. So there is hope that there will be some leverage on the prime minister from within his party. One would expect that there should be -- but Netanyahu tends to do his own thing, so it is not a certainty.
And what of Lapid in all of this? The left wing is urging him not to join a Likud coalition, but he wants a piece of the pie (why shouldn't he?) and is very unlikely to repel Netanyahu's advances. The prime minister is already reaching out to him.
What I saw as a major stumbling block with regard to a coalition that includes both Shas and Yesh Atid is the Yesh Atid platform regarding draft for yeshiva students, something that Shas opposes. But -- no surprise! -- both parties have already expressed a willingness to work out a modus vivendi here.
Lapid is listed as "left," but in fact is more centrist. He began his campaign in Ariel in Samaria, and has come out saying not only that major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria should be retained in any final deal, but that such a deal would have to factor in security situations. No crazy "let's pull back to the '67 line and give them their state" statements from him.
David Rubin identifies Lapid as a "pragmatist" who has said, "I don’t like the tendency to blame the Israeli side. Most of the blame belongs to the Palestinian side, and I am not sure that they as a people are ready to make peace with us."
Bottom line is that Lapid, a well-known TV personality, is a political novice, who has yet to be tested. He is from Tel Aviv and it was noted yesterday that the voter turnout there was very heavy. He has his following. Let us hope that we will be pleasantly surprised with how he develops in his role in government.
I do consider it more likely that Netanyahu, with Lapid in a major position in the government, will agree to return to the negotiating table.
That Obama also thinks so is quite clear (this does not go down well). After the election results were in, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro was visibly elated in the statement he made.
This will be a position only in principle, however, because Abbas is not about to join Netanyahu. His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, has already made a statement that:
"What interests us in the next Israeli government, is for it to abide by the two-state solution, stop settlements and recognize the United Nations General Assembly November 29 resolution that talks about a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.
"We are ready to work with any government in Israel that accepts these terms of reference that are based on international resolutions."
For the record, let me make it clear here that 1) General Assembly resolutions are only recommendations and absolutely not binding in international law, and 2) that the UN cannot declare a state into existence and whatever was resolved applied only internally to the UN itself.
But, hey, when did the Palestinian Arabs ever let facts get in the way of what they declare.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, elaborated on this position at a press conference in Ramallah, when she said that the Palestinians do not expect any change in the Israeli position. “We do not think that peace is on the horizon…" She recommended that Palestinians Arabs continue their "nonviolent resistance" and work on unity.
Before I leave this subject, let me note that a recent statement attributed to Obama with regard to the fact that Netanyahu's policies will isolate Israel in the world may also have cost Likud some votes.
Now we await the process of formulating a coalition, and then of assigning ministries. Key here is the position of minister of defense, which has inspired much speculation.
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