News / Middle East

Israel Forms New Coalition Government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office,  March 10, 2013.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office, March 10, 2013.
Robert Berger
Israeli political parties have reached a coalition agreement, clearing the way for a new government and some top-level international diplomacy as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to visit.

It took a weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearly six weeks to form a new Israeli government, barely beating a Saturday deadline. Netanyahu won national elections in January, but his right-wing Likud party lost ground to moderate, secular parties which set down tough demands.

For the first time in years, ultra-Orthodox parties are out of the government. Israeli analyst Gerald Steinberg says that means a coalition with a more domestic agenda, led by ending military draft exemptions and stipends for the ultra-Orthodox.

“It’s going to tackle those domestic issues, that’s the goal at least, in terms of the distribution of the burden both military and financial. So it’s going to be very much inward looking," said Steinberg.

But when Netanyahu announced the coalition deal, he noted that the broader Middle East is in turmoil.

He said the new government must tackle major security and political challenges. He did not elaborate, but in previous statements, he has named them as Iran’s controversial nuclear program, the danger of Syria’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of Islamic terror groups, and reviving peace talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu says Iran will top the agenda when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Israel next week. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel and the United States believe the Islamic Republic is developing nuclear weapons that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state.

Steinberg believes the prime minister will tell President Obama that if international diplomacy and sanctions fail, Israel is prepared to take military action against Iran on its own.  

“As we get closer to the summer, and if we see progress towards an Iranian nuclear weapon, Netanyahu’s going to say, ‘If the Americans don’t act, if there’s no international military action, we’re going to have to act unilaterally,’ and he will get broad support from the Israeli public and most of the Israeli political system, including within his own coalition," he said.

Domestic issues and Iran have pushed the Palestinian issue to the back burner. But Netanyahu says reviving peace talks after a four-year stalemate is a priority.

Steinberg doesn’t expect any breakthroughs.

“We’re certainly going to go see some sort of negotiating effort because Obama is going to push for it; it’s something that for PR reasons the Israelis have to show that they’re interested," he said. "So we’ll see some movement in that direction, but probably not much substance.”

The Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel stops all settlement expansion, a demand rejected by the previous Israeli government. But there is speculation that with President Obama coming and a more moderate coalition in power, Israel might be willing to make concessions on the settlements.

Obama will discuss these issues with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when they meet in the West Bank next week.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid