Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Netanyahu vies for control of Israel

Last evening, President Obama primarily addressed economic and budgetary topics in his press conference. I was surprised that more attention was not given to the inevitable problems he will have to confront regarding the new government being formed in Israel. Israel now has the capability of presenting even further problems for an already beleaguered president. Personally, I am entering unchartered waters in regard to the nuances involved in the precarious state that Israel has been in for generations. So feel free to weigh in should I veer off-course.

I was prompted to research this potentially problematic situation by an article in MSNBC News, as I often am. See The story revolves around the creation of a new government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister-designate and Chairman of the Lukid Party. He was given this task by Israeli President Peres in February of this year. He has wasted little time attempting to unite the various parties in order to gain complete control of the Knesset, the legislative branch of Israel. He has recently struck a deal with the Labor Party which is center-left. This is a significant accomplishment considering the Lukid Party is conservative. The Labor Party has joined the Shas, a conservative religious party, in siding with Netanyahu. As a result, the chairman of the Lukid’s negotiation team stated “Now, 53 members of the Knesset are bound by agreement to support a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu…” as reported by Globes, Israel business news.

Standing between Netanyahu and complete control of the Knesset is the Kadima Party headed by Tzipi Livini. In the past election, the Kadima Party won 28 seats besting the Lukid Party, which won 27. (Still with me?) Many believe that Netanyahu will be able to win over the Kadima Party since it consists of former members of both the Labor and Lukid parties. Should he pull this off, he will have secured 80 seats out of a possible 120 in the Knesset.

Where am I going with all this you ask? An Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu presents several obstacles to Washington’s quest to establish a two-state solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Netanyahu is not an advocate of this two-state system and his Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman (must be the name) is “fervently anti-Arab.” While the Obama administration vows to work with whatever government is in control; its primary goal would appear to be out of reach. Part of the problem is that Netanyahu has cautiously begun negotiations with Syria. This is where it gets very interesting or very confusing; depending on your knowledge of the history between the two nations.

In the 1967 Six Day War; Israel was able to obtain the Golan Heights which is considered to be very important strategically. As part of the newly proposed negotiations, Syria would like the Golan Heights returned to them. 70% of Israelis vehemently oppose this move. Also as part of the agreement, Syria has insisted that Israel return some of the land it acquired in the war to Palestine as well; namely the West Bank. Hold the phone! Netanyahu has an almost pathological hatred of Iran, as do most Israelis. He feels that concessions previously made have already jeopardized the security of Israel. He cites the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and from the Gaza Strip 5 years later as examples. For more on the fascinating story of The Six Day War; I recommend you visit

It is impossible to encapsulate the party differences, historical precedents, and omnipresent conflicts in a single article. So I will return to my original point. While we, as Americans, would settle for a modicum of bipartisanship; Netanyahu is seeking complete and unabated control of Israel’s legislative body. Should this transpire; President Obama will be faced with yet another dilemma. Can he continue to negotiate for a two-state solution at the risk of alienating our only ally in the Middle East? Or does he simply acquiesce and allow them to sort it out? Given our history; I’m afraid the former is the route he will choose.

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