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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid