Likud Wins c Day

The Right wing is back in power in Israel. President Shimon Peres has asked Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government, and it remains to be seen how be manages to take along the leftist Kadima Party of Tzipi Livni, as well a host of right wingers in the proposed ‘unity government’.

Netanyahu, who was prime minister in the 1990s, said he understands the need for a unity government, and has invited Livni for negotiations. The Likud Party also enjoys the support of the Orthodox Shaas Movement. Having managed to gain tentative support from Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, with its 15 seats, Likud seems to have the necessary numbers to form a coalition government superseding Livni’s efforts at hobnobbing with other parties for a likely coalition.

Lieberman’s support, though, has been tied to his desire to form a wider coalition government, including Kadima. Now how this comes about since Livni has rebuffed Netanyahu’s offer to join the coalition, remains to be seen. Livni, who won by a marginal vote from Likud in February 10th elections, had earlier refused to form a unity government with the extreme right wing, preferring to sit in the opposition.

The recent Israeli election has been followed with considerable trepidation regionally as the Israelis went to vote after the government’s three-week military offensive on Gaza. While Livni had pledged to continue peace talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu has opposed the negotiations and had as Prime Minister, from 1996-1999, supported the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

The mandate delivered by the Israelis was clear yet weighed almost equally on both sides, that of security and peace. The consensual analysis we see emerging from Israel is that the foremost issue for the people is that of security, paradoxically there is also the indication that the Israelis have not given up on peace, either. However, the predominant concern of security is tied to Iran, its nuclear programme and its influence over Hezbollah and Hamas.

The truce that is being negotiated between Hamas, who control Gaza after having won the parliamentary election there in 2006, and Israel is still to come about, despite ceasefires being announced by both sides last month. The latest precondition set by Israel for lifting the economic blockade of Gaza, as part of the truce, is the release of the 19-year-old Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit who has been held by Hamas since 2006.

The Hamas leadership that had earlier indicated they were considering releasing Shalit rejected the latest Israeli demand as the prerequisite to the lifting of the Gaza blockade, on the basis that the issue was separate from the ceasefire deal that covered the blockade lifting. Shalit’s release, in fact, could have followed as Hamas also seeks the release of more than 1,400 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails. As further delays of the truce unfold, the people in Gaza continue to suffer.

Irrespective of who is in power in Israel, leftist or rightist, unless there is a genuine effort from the international community to put an end to the decades old conflict and to resolve the Palestine issue, it will continue to fester.

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