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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs