How Netanyahu's 'unity' government may affect Palestinians, Iran
Prime Minister Netanyahu jolted Israeli politics by forming a 'unity' government with the centrist Kadima party, arguing it will promote stability at a time of contentious challenges.
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It's all about stability
Speaking at a press conference, Netanyahu defended the sudden about-face as motivated by his desire to bolster government stability rather than head toward early elections.Skip to next paragraph
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He said the new government’s priorities would be domestic policy, such as new legislation on military service exemptions and electoral reform. He added that the unity government would also seek to advance “a responsible peace process,” but still laid the blame for the 18-month impasse in talks on the Palestinians.
The Palestinians cautiously welcomed the change in government. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas called on the Israeli government not to miss the new “opportunity” to revive the peace process.
A senior Palestinian official said that the new government should be able to reinstitute a freeze in settlement expansion and reach an understanding with the Palestinians about the ground rules for peace talks.
“We need to see the seriousness of the coalition about Palestinians,” says Muhammed Shtayyeh, a Palestinian negotiator. “We and the Israeli leadership haven’t been reading from the same book…. We need a coalition to regenerate hope for the Palestinian people and to show seriousness.”
Why Kadima joined forces
Mofaz, who will have only limited influence as a minister without portfolio, said that restarting peace talks was an “iron foundation” of the new coalition agreement. As the leader of the parliamentary opposition, his party has criticized Netanyahu’s government for the breakdown of the peace talks.
Several years ago, he pushed a plan to establish a Palestinian state with temporary borders on 60 percent of the West Bank as a prelude to talks to reach a permanent solution to the conflict.
Mofaz has also staked out positions on Iran that have been at odds with Mr. Netanyahu. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, he said the Iranians have not reached a point where they can threaten Israel with a nuclear weapon, and that such a threat is not as dangerous for Israel as the Palestinian conflict.
The first test for the new unity government with the Palestinians will come this summer, when Israel faces a Supreme Court deadline to dismantle an illegal settler outpost. Until now, Netanyahu has been trying to evade the order so as not to upset political allies.
Still, even though Mofaz’s presence s likely to moderate government policies, some observers expressed doubt that Netanyahu and the Palestinians will get very far in talks. Reuven Hazan, a political scientist at Hebrew University, notes that because Israel’s previous center-left wing government was unable to cut a peace deal with the Palestinians in 2008, the new center-right wing coalition is highly unlikely to do so.
“There’s no way that in the next year this government is going to reach an agreement that previous more dovish government couldn’t do,” he says. “They are going back to negotiations about negotiations.”