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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Obama pressing Peres to choose Livni? UPDATE: Yes, he did

President Shimon Peres' office announced this evening that US President Obama called to 'congratulate Israel' on its elections, and to 'inquire' about the process of forming a coalition.
Also Wednesday evening, President Shimon Peres gave Obama a crash course in the intricacies of putting together a coalition, when the US president called Peres to congratulate Israel on its elections.

According to a statement put out by Peres' office, Obama - who has stayed completely out of the Israeli election campaign - asked Peres about what happens next in the coalition building process.

Peres explained the process, emphasizing the differences between the US and Israeli systems. "You only have two parties, while we have 12," Peres said.

According to Peres' statement, Obama said that the process seemed complicated, but that he was sure that Israel would benefit from Peres' "experience and wisdom." He also said he was looking forward to meeting Peres in the near future, and that "we are all still on our way to the Promised Land."
This morning I took note of rumors that the Obama administration may try making a push for Livni.
Peres may want to give Livni every possible chance to form the next government and become prime minister. And that’s precisely what Barack Obama would like.
This evening, Israel Radio reported that despite Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman's announcement last night that he wanted a Right wing coalition, he did not commit to Netanyahu in their meeting today, and asked Netanyahu what the coalition platform would be on issues of religion and state - issues on which Lieberman's position is anathema to two of Netanyahu's other likely coalition partners: Shas and United Torah Judaism, which between them hold 16 seats in the incoming Knesset.

But the numbers for Livni just don't add up. Netanyahu won't go into a coalition under her leadership for the same reason she won't go into one under his leadership - because each of them wants to be Prime Minister. The ultra-Orthodox parties are extremely unlikely to go in with her (Shas in particular would be betraying its promise to its voters if it did so) and Kadima will not sit in a coalition with National Union and probably not with Jewish Home. That leaves Kadima's potential coalition partners as Labor, Meretz and maybe Yisrael Beiteinu. Those add up to 28+13+3+15 = 59. And Labor says they have no interest in being part of the coalition and want to rebuild themselves in the opposition.

If Netanyahu doesn't have Yisrael Beiteinu, he'd be in worse shape (Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, National Union, Jewish Home add up to 27+11+5+4+3 = 50) and in that case Peres could charge Livni with trying to form a coalition, but the most likely outcome in that event may be new elections when no coalition can be formed.

I look for Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties to settle their differences by allowing Lieberman's party to vote their conscience on religion-state issues. And then Netanyahu will do all he can to make sure they don't come up.

But I doubt Obama's call was so innocent. I believe he called Peres to push for Livni.

UPDATE THURSDAY 12:44 AM

This - just posted - pretty much confirms that I am right.
US officials are publicly taking a wait-and-see approach to the formation of a new Israeli government, but privately many have expressed concern that Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu might preside over a right-wing coalition.

"There would be great unease" at the prospect of such a government, said one Capitol Hill source.

He predicted that a governing coalition of parties from the Right could embolden the left flank of the Democratic party and turn up pressure, particularly in the US Congress, to pass measures that made clear demands on Israel.

He distinguished, however, between a Netanyahu-led right-wing coalition and Netanyahu-led national unity government.

Despite the Likud's second-place finish to the centrist Kadima party, parties on the Right won more of the vote, which means Netanyahu might have an easier time forming a hawkish coalition but could try to work out a formula for a unity government, as could Kadima head Tzipi Livni.

The Capitol Hill source, who didn't want to be identified speaking about another country's internal politics, noted that Netanyahu had made a strong effort to reach out to the Obama administration and made the case to the US and the Israeli public that he could work with the White House.

He said that attitude could help assuage US concerns when presented in a national-unity package, whose positions - whether under Netanyahu or Livni - would be more in line with the US's own policies of engagement on Arab-Israeli reconciliation.

"The hope is that there is a government that is really committed to peace with the Palestinians," The Washington Post quoted one senior administration official saying.

Even if Netanyahu prevails, the official added, "he's grown over the years. Getting back to the talks with the Palestinians is really the only solution."

Ron Dermer, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said Wednesday that the Likud leader strongly preferred to put together a national-unity government that looked toward the center of the country's political spectrum rather than a right-wing coalition.

"He's said his biggest mistake when he was prime minister last time was not reaching out to Shimon Peres," who then headed the Labor party, Dermer said on a conference call with the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "I do not believe he will make the same mistake this time.

"I very much hope that Tzipi Livni will put politics aside" to sit in a Likud-led government, Dermer added.

Still, many political analysts say there's no doubt the Obama administration would prefer to see a national-unity government headed by Livni.

"The impression in Israel is that the Obama administration has already made its preference known and that its preference is for Kadima - and that impression isn't going anywhere," said Georgetown University professor and Israel expert Michael Oren.

"They'd rather work with a centrist government than a right-wing government."

He added that the preference of the Obama camp, with its interest in intensive diplomacy, was "legitimate," noting that many Israelis preferred Republican presidential candidate John McCain because they observed a greater alignment of views.

When it comes to Livni, the administration sees someone who has spent the last year working with the Palestinians as part of a negotiating process and made the two-state solution an important part of her campaign, while Netanyahu has been much more circumspect on the extent of his support for that formulation, focusing his campaign on the need for security.

And while Netanyahu did sign agreements that gave control of West Bank areas to the Palestinians as prime minister in the late '90s, he had a troubled relationship with many of the American officials who served under then president Bill Clinton, several of whom are returning to office under Obama.

Dennis Ross, Clinton's Middle East envoy and likely to be a top regional representative, described Netanyahu as "overcome by hubris" after his first election to the premiership and recalled him being "nearly insufferable, lecturing and telling us how to deal with the Arabs" in his book on the Oslo peace process.

Still, publicly US officials are welcoming the Israeli democratic process and indicating their readiness to work with whoever becomes prime minister.
Read the whole thing.

I disagree with Michael Oren. There's a huge difference between 'many Israelis' preferring John McCain to Obama and the United States government preferring Livni to Netanyahu and interfering to impose their choice.

The Obama administration may favor 'democracy' but only when the results are to their liking. The people of Israel spoke on Tuesday. We voted for what we see as hope and change. Big Brother has no right to interfere.

12 Comments:

At 12:44 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

sounds like clinton sending Carville over

 
At 1:42 AM, Blogger Robertcw72 said...

Israel needs to act in its OWN interest. Not looking to the US. Especially now! Israel's future is simply in its own hand.

 
At 3:55 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed. Israel will need to resist a superpower. Israel did not tell Americans for whom to vote. She expects the same courtesy in return and democracy means the US Administration sometimes has to work with a government it doesn't necessarily care for.

 
At 4:38 AM, Blogger LB said...

The only semi-consolation (sounds better in Hebrew, I guess) is that Livni simply does not have the votes. Lieberman would have to sell out and convince Labor to sit in the government (which he seems disinclined to do).

Israel needs to finally act the sovereign (and regional superpower) that it is. Step 1 - reject all American aid. That money does SO much more harm than good. Step 2 - tell the US that it can deal with its border, drugs, and crime problems on its own, and we can deal with our problems without their "help."

 
At 5:06 AM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

Peres does not need any encouragement from Emperor Hopenchange to prefer Livni over the right bloc. He would, if he could ask her to form the government regardless of the dulcet tones of the new king of the world.

At the end of the day, however, there is nothing either of them can do about it.

 
At 5:36 AM, Blogger Ivan said...

This is as good a time as any for the Israelis to say no to the so-called aid that she receives from the US. She should in turn accepted it at all only on conditition that the Americans understand that the Israelis are field testing their equipment and tactics for the them. The Obamaites will be short and deficient on any achievements on the home front, the temptation then for Narcissus to crow about Mid-East peace will be overwhelming. Under the those circumstances the only certainty is that more Israelis (and Arabs) will end up dead.

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

J. Lichty and Carl - we'll have to see how the soldiers' and absentee vote changes the final Knesset makeup. Assuming both Kadima and Likud hold an equal number of seats and a majority of MKs recommend Netanyahu, the President has no discretion. Normally, the person of the largest party gets the first nod but these are not normal political circumstances.

Stay tuned.

 
At 8:21 AM, Blogger Findalis said...

The last time a US President tried to cut off funding to Israel he got his head handed to him. Obama will learn very quickly not to mess with G-d's chosen.

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger Ashan said...

To paraphrase Henry II on his friend-cum-rival, Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury: Who will shut up this meddlesome POTUS?

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger sassinfras said...

israel couldn't last five minutes without the USA.
hopefully obama will resist the pressure from the israel lobby, who controls most of the senatators and congressmen, and expose the corruption by this lobby group.
the US needs to look after americas interest and not israels and save israel from its nuclear crazy self before its to late.

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:03 PM, Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

I see our troll is chirping....

lol what a pimple....


Israel should wake up and smell the roses and tell America to keep it's aid... AND CHARGE AMERICA for services rendered JUST like the rest of the world...

BUT as a condition of the rejection of aid from the USA Israel should USE some of those weapons it has and destroy Iran's military and industrial complex. (not to mention destroying gaza, damascus & most of lebanon) in one giant fireball...

thus there will be no need for additional aid from the ex-superpower called america...

the islamic forces aligned against israel will be in shambles and guess what? israel will not need anymore aid from the usa...

it's time to think the impossible...

destroy gaza, lebanon, syria, iran to the ground...

yep the peace process what a crock....

2:01 PM

 

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