Netanyahu: Israel is serious about peace
The hawkish prime minister, who presented his new government Tuesday, shows a distinct change in style and tactics – though not substance – since his 1996-99 term.
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"There's a close relationship. If Iran was allowed to have nuclear weapon, then the whole nature of the peace process will change," he says. "The moderates will be the losers" and peace-process opponents like Hamas will grow stronger.Skip to next paragraph
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Common ground with US on Arab-Israeli peace
Though Netanyahu doesn't see eye to eye with Obama and Secretary of State Clinton on the urgency of resolving the Palestinian conflict, he is seeking to smooth over those differences by stressing the points in common with the US administration.
"He'll emphasize close cooperation with the US, and this also reflects on the peace process," says Mr. Shoval. "In the same way that Hillary Clinton put it, the Palestinians should run their own lives."
While Netanyahu has remained a critic of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, he has proposed a different approach to peace: an economic one.
Peace negotiations will come to fruition only after the US-backed Palestinian Authority is strong enough to assume control over the West Bank, and only after control of the Gaza Strip is wrested from Hamas, say Netnayahu's aides.
So instead of pushing talks on the thorny final status issues like the future of Jerusalem, Netanyahu has promoted an "economic peace" in the West Bank, suggesting that support for militants will drop if Israel and the international community can spearhead business and investment. But there are doubts about the effectiveness of this approach. "The global economic situation is such that nobody has money to make investments, and if they did have money, why would they come to the West Bank," says Gershon Baskin, head of the Israel-Palestinian Center for Research and information. "It's difficult for me to see how he can make progress."
Breakthrough for regional diplomacy?
Whether Netanyahu will just bide his time or is interested in a breakthrough in regional diplomacy is a subject for debate. Some believe that along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu is likely to revisit peace negotiations with the Syrians.
"We see a full peace with the Arab world," Netanyahu said in his remarks. "I wanted to isolate extremist Islam from the rest of the Muslim and Arab world, which is also threatened."
During his first term in office, Netanyahu conducted secret talks with the Syrians via US businessman Ron Lauder, and discussed giving up parts of the Golan Heights. Many analysts think that a deal with Syria would help the US and Israel turn the tables on Iran, but Netanyahu is almost sure to encounter fierce political opposition from coalition partners and his own party.
But Bushinsky noted that this time around, Netanyahu is liable to be looking for a place in Israel history rather than being remembered as having tried twice and come up with no results.
"It's like an American president in his last term," he said. "If he won't do anything, he won't do anything, and it will be the end of his career. I think he will be braver than before."