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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs