Netanyahu reaches deal to form new government

posted at 8:41 am on March 14, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Talk about timing.  With the first-ever visit to Israel by Barack Obama coming in just days, the Israelis have finally formed a government behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud Party didn’t win enough Knesset seats to easily create a coalition.  Now, with three parties backing him, Netanyahu can look forward to dealing with his most important and often disruptive ally:

After weeks of deadlock, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday reached an agreement with coalition partners to form the country’s next government, said a spokeswoman for a party involved in the talks.

The new Cabinet appears set to address pressing domestic issues while putting peacemaking with the Palestinians on the back burner.

The three main coalition partners struck a deal after weeks of tough negotiations and were to sign the agreement later Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Yesh Atid party told The Associated Press. She spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

Reuters quotes a spokeswoman for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, Noga Katz, as saying a deal has been struck. “There is a government,” she told Reuters.

Obama may not like what greets him, under the circumstances.  The distaste for Netanyahu in the Obama administration is not exactly a well-kept secret, after all. Obama wants someone who will bend more on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and now the election has forced that issue to “the back burner,” as the AP puts it.  And that may be at least in small part thanks to the pressure of Obama’s state visit and the need to form a government before he arrives, too, which makes it a little more exasperating for the White House.

John Kerry has claimed that he wants to make a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians his primary goal as Secretary of State.  That won’t be easy when Israel doesn’t have it as a priority for the incoming government.  On the other hand, Netanyahu did promise Tzipi Livni the portfolio for those negotiations, and her party agenda is primarily about cutting a peace deal.  Perhaps the lower profile of the effort in the upcoming Netanyahu government will work more subtly and effectively than proclaiming it as the centerpiece of policy.

Update: Not that much was going to happen during Obama’s visit anyway, says Adam Kushner at National Journal:

Unlike after the first Gulf War, America no longer has the standing to boss allies around. When Obama said that negotiators should use the 1967 borders as rough guidelines for a deal—the framework accepted by Netanyahu’s predecessors—the premier scoffed publicly. Once, “people took saying ‘no’ to America seriously,” says Aaron David Miller, who advised six secretaries of State on the Middle East and is now a distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center. “We’ve come a long way.” Another reason is that Obama won’t use sticks. When he demanded that Netanyahu halt settlement construction (the key Israeli impediment to peace progress), the prime minister simply ignored him. The message: Washington can be disobeyed with impunity.

Ultimately, it’s not clear that sticks would even help. On the political side, although Obama will never face another election, Democrats in Congress have one next year, and they won’t want an extended public break with Israel when legislative control—and the fundraising needed to contest it—is at stake. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Biden, possible presidential candidates, would likely undermine Obama’s hard line. This time, American pressure wouldn’t help in Israeli politics, either. Voters, who watched the peace process crumble, now feel besieged by Hezbollah, Hamas, Egypt, and Iran. One of Netanyahu’s possible coalition partners opposes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem; the other rejects any kind of Palestinian state.

On the strategic side, unlike Clinton’s relatively placid second term, today’s Middle East agenda is packed with urgent problems—Iranian nukes, Syrian civil war, the Arab Spring. The costs of tampering with the alliance right now (say, a disunified front against Tehran) may outweigh the costs of inaction. Perhaps that’s why Obama, who mentioned Middle East peace often during the 2008 campaign, ignored it in his 2012 convention speech, the debates, his election-night speech, his inaugural, and his State of the Union address. It is now, as Biden put it last week, in our “naked self-interest” to help Israel.

Which is why Obama and Netanyahu won’t spend their time together bickering about borders or settlements. “It’s not focused on specific Middle East peace-process proposals,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said last month. “That is not the purpose of this visit.” In other words, enjoy the photo op.


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John Kerry has claimed that he wants to make a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians his primary goal as Secretary of State.

Security for our Ambassadors should be a close second..

Electrongod on March 14, 2013 at 8:44 AM

Given the nature of Israeli politics, Netanyahu is having an amazing run.

jake-the-goose on March 14, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Just keep any ideas Obama might have for rebuilding the temple and then visiting it for the dedication.

>insert cymbal sound here<

PappyD61 on March 14, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Please oh Please let him re-state his position that Israel should revert to its 1968 borders during this visit. The world needs to know just what a Jew-Hating terrorist-loving bastard the filthy parasites of this nation have elected.

Happy Nomad on March 14, 2013 at 8:58 AM

How about a straight-up trade of leadership….

hillsoftx on March 14, 2013 at 9:09 AM

The world needs to know just what a Jew-Hating terrorist-loving bastard the filthy parasites of this nation have elected.

Happy Nomad on March 14, 2013 at 8:58 AM

The world already knows, and approves.

Bat Chain Puller on March 14, 2013 at 9:22 AM

How about a straight-up trade of leadership….

hillsoftx on March 14, 2013 at 9:09 AM

You’ve seen the hulking “woman” known as Mooch, right? The worthless mini-moochers that are as greedy as their parents? We definitely would have to sweeten the pot to get a deal done.

Happy Nomad on March 14, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Bibi: “So Mr. President, we should probably discuss the security situa….

Bark: “Yeah yeah, whatever. Say, where’s a good golf course around here?”

Bishop on March 14, 2013 at 9:38 AM

How about a straight-up trade of leadership….

hillsoftx on March 14, 2013 at 9:09 AM

…we can only dream!

KOOLAID2 on March 14, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Here’s the important part:

Yesh Atid, founded by former TV personality Yair Lapid, won 19 seats in the election on a message promising relief to Israel’s struggling middle class and an end to draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox.

As head of the second largest party in parliament, Lapid will serve as the new finance minister, a position with great influence over setting the government’s budget. It will also control the Education Ministry.

The Jewish Home, a party linked to the West Bank settler movement led by high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, will likely control the Housing and Trade ministries.

So pro-settler, anti-draft-exemption. Strange bedfellows.

calbear on March 14, 2013 at 10:12 AM

John Kerry has claimed that he wants to make a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians his primary goal as Secretary of State. That won’t be easy when Israel doesn’t have it as a priority for the incoming government.

It is impossible while the Palestinian position continues to be the ultimate destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jews. I have no interest in a temporary truce.

rbj on March 14, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Would love to see Netanyahu make Obama exit the back door.

dddave on March 14, 2013 at 10:31 AM

John Kerry has claimed that he wants to make a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians his primary goal as Secretary of State.

Security for our Ambassadors should be a close second..

Electrongod on March 14, 2013 at 8:44 AM

Why? It wasn’t before, and no one was ever held responsible. No one ever will be either. There is no downside to anything done irresponsibly in this administration. Well, at least not for those who survive such irresponsibility.

runawayyyy on March 14, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Strange bedfellows.

calbear on March 14, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Yair Lapid (lefty, Yesh Atid Party) and Naftali Bennett (righty, Bayit Yehudi Party) both did better in the election than anyone expected from newcomers. They proceeded to bewilder/annoy/dumbfound/infuriate their respective supporters by forming an alliance to challenge Bibi, for no particular reason other than to show off how awesomely awesome and powerful they are now. The coalition, IMHO, is weaker than it would have been if Bibi was able to choose one or the other and assemble a more ideologically homogenous government, but hey, that’s just me.

ChicagoJewishGuy on March 14, 2013 at 1:09 PM

John Kerry has claimed that he wants to make a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians his primary goal as Secretary of State.

I thought he was opposed to settlements.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on March 14, 2013 at 2:57 PM