News / Middle East

US Election Results Could Influence Israel's Parliamentary Vote

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York, September 21, 2011.U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York, September 21, 2011.
x
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York, September 21, 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York, September 21, 2011.
Cecily Hilleary
Americans aren’t the only people anxiously following the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Political leaders in Israel are also watching the balloting process, aware that whoever occupies the White House in the next four years could be a factor in who dominates the next Israeli government and its policies.

U.S. politics are always important to Israelis because Washington is the country’s biggest ally, its closest international collaborator and its primary supplier of sophisticated military equipment. But this year’s election in the United States comes at an especially delicate time, as Israel fears a growing existential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran and as its own politics is in a state of growing confusion.

A month of surprises

In late October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped a political bombshell when he announced that his Likud Party would merge with the ultra-right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. 

Israeli political experts have been scratching their heads over the significance of the merger.  A secular immigrant from the former Soviet republic of Moldova, Lieberman opposes special privileges such as draft exemptions given to the haredi, or Orthodox Jews.  He takes a hard line against Iran, favors keeping Israeli settlements on West Bank and has proposed a two-state peace plan with the Palestinians based along ethnic lines - including a proposal to expel Israeli Arabs to any newly created Palestinian state. 

The question confounding many Israeli political analysts was why Prime Minister Netanyahu went ahead with the merger. Does Netanyahu’s new alliance mean he has embraced Lieberman’s harder line policies, or is the merger just pragmatic politics in preparation for the next Israeli election? 

David Makovsky directs The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process. “I think Lieberman, while he’s got sharp elbows, and there might be a few policy disputes between them, I don’t think he’s seeking to move Netanyahu over to the right.” 

Makovsky says Lieberman may like to “talk tough” because it attracts voters.  “But he understands that Israel is in a very precarious policy environment, and the system would not be able to withstand that.”

Dr. Josef Olmert, an adjunct professor at University of South Carolina, believes Netanyahu joined up with Lieberman simply to consolidate power and claim the most seats in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset - though he cautions the strategy could backfire on Netanyahu. 

“Historically, political mergers don’t always guarantee more seats in the Knesset,” Olmert said.  “There are moderate Likudniks who may not be happy with unity with the Lieberman party, and I’m not sure that even in the constituency of Lieberman everybody will follow suit after the leader and vote for the united party.”   

That’s why Dr. Olmert doubts whether new Likud/Beiteinu Party will be able to win the 42 out of 120 seats that Likud now holds in the Knesset.  Even so, he believes the new party could still end up as the dominant force and “will be a blocking vote against the possibility of forming an alternative coalition government.” 

Parties weighing options

Since the merger was announced, opposition groups have shifted into high gear, exploring how best to challenge Netanyahu’s newly merged superparty.  Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is widely believed to be the only significant challenger now that he has been acquitted of most of the corruption charges that forced him to resign in 2008.

Makovsky says that if Olmert decides to run, he could bring with him Kadima Party chief Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, who leads a new centrist party centrist Yesh Atid, others.

“I think Olmert is probably the only figure that could unite a good amount of these disparate smaller voices in the center under one banner,” Makovsky said. “If he says, ‘I’m staying out of it’ because he has one court case that is still pending, then the odds are we’re going to be left with the current mess in the middle.”

The former prime minister hasn’t made any announcements yet, and some analysts believe he’s waiting to see the outcome of the U.S. election

“There is no question that Mr. Netanyahu threw in his lot with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party,” says Dr. Olmert, the University of Carolina professor, and Ehud Olmert’s brother.  “Netanyahu will be in good shape if indeed Romney is elected because then a lot of supporters in Israel would praise his political acumen.” 

However, if Obama wins, says Dr. Olmert, “people will immediately say to Netanyahu, ‘you were not prudent enough in your dealings with Americans, and your talking about Iran at the height of their political campaign might also be interpreted as interference in elections’… and the other side could go after him.”

At this point, the only certainty is that Netanyahu’s alliance with Lieberman has created a great deal of uncertainty among Israel’s center and left-wing parties, and that these parties will be working overtime to seek unity and increase their influence as parliamentary elections approach.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: s from: Israel
November 05, 2012 3:51 PM
Your description of Liberman's proposal is inaccurate, making it sound racist and dangerous. Your use of word "expel" creates an impression that he is proposing to transfer people from their home to other state. But in fact, he suggested exchange of territories with their population, where Jews-populated areas will be in Israel, and Arab-populated - in Palestine. So, under his proposal, noone would leave their home, and everyone will be with their people!
In fact, these who oppose this the most fiercely, are Israeli Arabs, who would loose Israeli and gain Palestinian citizenship. Hmm. Big surprise...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid