Netanyahu’s victory bad omen for global peace

Benjamin Netanyahu has once again won sufficient number of seats to qualify him to be the next Prime Minister of Israel. Netanyahu sounded warmonger when he told cheering supporters that the first challenge was and remains preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. He also expressed hoped to usher in the kind of change the Israeli people are waiting for with the broadest government possible.

However, media is describing the results as a setback for Netanyahu and his hardliner allies and say the vote could force him to consider alliances with moderate rivals who have made significant gains in the polls. According to initial reports Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu got 31 seats – 11 fewer than its 42 seats in the previous parliament. The centrist secular Yesh Atid won 19 seats, followed by the Labor Party with 17 seats and the far-right religious nationalist Jewish Home with 12 seats.

Israel’s elections results have apparently weakened Netanyahu and raised the prospect of a more centrist government that could ease strained relations with Washington and signal more flexibility in peace efforts with the Palestinians. Netanyahu will face a potentially difficult balancing act, trying to accommodate the rising hawkish wing of his Likud party and other rightist and religious parties that will remain influential in parliament.

Yesh Atid has emerged as a key contender in the formation of an inevitable coalition. Netanyahu would almost certainly have to join forces with Yesh Atid, now second in size. The centrist party’s demands include resuming negotiations with the Palestinians and an alliance that could result in a government less tilted to the right than Netanyahu’s outgoing administration.

It is expected that a moderate Israeli government with a large centrist component could improve Netanyahu’s tense ties with the US administration and ease Israel’s international isolation, which has been deepened by the impasse in peace talks and by Netanyahu’s recent announcements of stepped-up settlement building in the West Bank.

Netanyahu said he had begun contacts to form the broadest government possible, which would address a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, peace efforts and domestic reforms demanded by Yesh Atid and other centrist parties.

Netanyahu will be more dependent on smaller coalition partners to cobble together a governing majority. Coalition talks are likely to take weeks, with hard bargaining expected before a new government can be sworn in.

The surprise result was the surge by Yesh Atid, which won 19 seats. Its leader, Yair Lapid, a former television news anchor and a political novice, based his campaign on a demand to end preferential treatment for tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews who are exempted from compulsory military service to pursue religious studies with government stipends.

Lapid’s campaign for equal service and easing the burden on a struggling middle class resonated with many secular Israelis, who pay high taxes and serve in the military. He says that the ultra-Orthodox should join the workforce and do a stint of national service, either in the military or in a civilian capacity, such as working in hospitals or helping the elderly.

Netanyahu’s personal character has the potential to not only inflame the region and may also severely impact the United States. Painting his country into a corner with red lines and lobbying America politicians to do the same is both a military and economic danger to the entire world.

Israel needs a world class leader, one that can change world opinion, provide a conscience and add some moral direction. Obviously it needs something completely different than it has now. If the next government is feckless and stupid, the Israel economy and people will be sunk and the supposed peace process also doomed.

The ultimate question on the peace process is whether the slow motion Israel thievery and torture will be the same as a fast-paced thievery and torture of the Palestinian people and also the war mania to wipeout Iran. A point has been established beyond doubt that over three decades of economic sanctions has made Iranian stronger and an important regional power.