Tags: netanyahu | israel | win | partners

Netanyahu Starts Search for Partners After Election Win

Thursday, 19 March 2015 06:33 AM EDT

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out feelers to potential coalition partners after voters balked at trading him for a rival who promised to be more conciliatory to the Palestinians and less confrontational with the U.S.

Netanyahu unexpectedly swept aside main challenger Isaac Herzog in Israel’s election on Tuesday, and is well placed to form a fourth government in coalition with other parties that share his skepticism about peace talks. Unofficial results show his Likud party won 30 of parliament’s 120 seats, 12 more than it currently has and six ahead of Herzog’s Zionist Union. Final results are due on Thursday.

“A fourth-term Netanyahu government is a very serious message to the Palestinian Authority that we aren’t going back to the peace process,” said Yoram Meital, a political scientist at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel.

The election was widely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s leadership. It left the Israeli electorate as divided as ever between doves pushing for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and security hawks who argue that in an increasingly violent Middle East, Israel must be wary of territorial concessions.

On the last day of the campaign, Netanyahu said he wouldn’t allow the establishment of a Palestinian state if re-elected.

Isolation Campaign

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the election results proved “we don’t have a peace partner.” He told Voice of Palestine radio on Wednesday that the Palestinians would intensify diplomatic efforts to isolate Israel internationally, pursue war crimes charges against it, and end cooperation between their security forces.

After he receives the official results, President Reuven Rivlin will assign someone to form a government. He’ll begin consultations with party leaders to hear their views on Sunday, his office said late Wednesday in a statement.

Netanyahu vowed to form his next government swiftly. He spoke with prospective partners and aims to complete the coalition-building process within three weeks, according to an e-mailed statement from Likud on Wednesday.

Israel’s benchmark government bonds due in 2024 rose to the highest since the note starting trading in January 2014, pushing the yield down six basis points to 1.53 percent at 10:12 a.m. in Tel Aviv. The benchmark stock index was down 0.1 percent and the shekel weakened 0.4 percent against the dollar.

Fear Campaign

Netanyahu defied the polls, which had suggested he would finish second behind Herzog, after repeatedly warning that support for any other party would put Israel’s fate in the hands of politicians soft on Israel’s security and backed by an Arab ticket. On polling day, he warned that Israeli Arabs were heading to the ballot boxes “in droves” and may affect the outcome.

Opponents attacked him on the campaign trail for hurting relations with the U.S., Israel’s top ally, by rejecting its views on peace with the Palestinians and efforts to reach a nuclear accord with Iran. The premier argued he was the only leader strong enough to protect national interests.

Netanyahu “destroyed relations with our partner countries,” Herzog said in an Army Radio interview on Thursday. “I’m not prepared to clean up after him,” he said, when asked if he would join the coalition if invited.

Kerry Congratulations

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has congratulated Netanyahu, and President Barack Obama will do so in the coming days, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday. He said the election result won’t have “substantial impact” on the Iran talks, while the U.S. will “re-evaluate our approach” on Palestinian peace talks.

The U.S. was “deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens” during the campaign, Earnest said.

The United Nations urged Israel to resume peacemaking with the Palestinians and halt settlement construction on land they claim for a state. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “firmly believes” a negotiated final accord “is also the best and only way forward for Israel to remain a democratic state,” spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

The factions that Netanyahu has contacted to join his new government include Jewish Home, a pro-settler party that opposes Palestinian statehood, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, which is skeptical of reaching a deal with the current Palestinian leadership. Both were part of his outgoing coalition.

Parliamentary Majority

A potential newcomer is Kulanu, a party that campaigned on improving living standards and is led by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon. Netanyahu has also reached out to the ultra- Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, according to Likud. If all these parties team up with Netanyahu, he would head a coalition commanding 67 parliamentary seats, according to the unofficial results.

The tally of votes by soldiers, diplomats and hospital patients has slightly altered the initial outcome, giving the anti-settlement Meretz party a fifth seat and reducing the united Arab list’s representation by one seat to 13, according to Israel Radio.



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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out feelers to potential coalition partners after voters balked at trading him for a rival who promised to be more conciliatory to the Palestinians and less confrontational with the U.S. Netanyahu unexpectedly swept aside main...
netanyahu, israel, win, partners
Thursday, 19 March 2015 06:33 AM
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