Israeli Palestinian Peace Talks Update

The Israeli daily’s report noted that over a month ago, Kerry’s security staff head, General John Allen, spoke before the IDF and Defense Ministry about security arrangements. After the Israelis and Palestinians added notes to Allen’s work, it was presented to Netanyahu two weeks ago.

According to the report, Netanyahu did not rule out the plan, and said he was ready to accept parts of it, but only if Israel’s serious concerns about security are accommodated into the plan.

Kerry is due to present his plan in weeks and his staff rented 50 rooms at a luxurious Jerusalem hotel for January.  He will then present the American proposal for final negotiations under American supervision and force a deal.  After which the sides will go on to discuss other issues to conclude an agreement by the end of April.

Meanwhile the Israel coalition is in crisis over various matters and deeply divided over any possible peace plan.  Half the coalition will leave if the plan is rejected, and the other half will leave if the plan is accepted.

That means that even if the coalition can hold together that long, the Israeli government is likely to collapse over the peace deal, probably bringing on early elections in Israel.

The present coalition crisis

During the last few days there has been serious head butting among coalition leaders after Yesh Atid threatened to bring a bill calling for equal tax exemptions for same-sex couples to a vote [now scheduled for Dec 25].

Wednesday night [18 Dec], because of a battle for the leadership of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; Lapid [Yesh Atid]demanded his MK Shelah be appointed to the position, however Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been given the position for the next year, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced his intention to change Knesset protocol and allow the appointment on a temporary basis.

In response Lapid hinted that there is a need for change in the coalition, then he made an ultimatum regarding Shelah’s appointment, criticizing plans for a new prime minister’s residence – even though it is clear that the current prime minister will not live there – and finally he refused to give up on Adi Kol’s bill” regarding equal tax benefits for same-sex couples.

Livni responded “I think we are all just getting tired of this. There is no doubt that we are in a critical and decisive stage regarding the future and face of this coalition – including whether it will survive or not.”

Justice Ministry Tzipi Livni also commented on coalition tensions, explaining that “this coalition is unnatural. It was born out of a pact between brothers (a reference to Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett’s partnership) despite the fact the public did not want a coalition locked in with a double veto – one on peace in the form of settlement construction of far out outposts, and the other pertaining to same-sex bills like those Hatnua is promoting.”

Livni further explained that in her opinion “the majority of Israelis want a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and liberal coalition that will put an end to the conflict with the Palestinians, and protects Jerusalem and Israel’s international standing. I’m happy things are turning around [towards a new coalition], but it was obvious that this would happen.”

Likud maneuvering

The purpose of the first Likud Central Committee meeting on 18 Dec, was to vote on a resolution that was meant to block any possibility of a future merger with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu.

The resolution would have limited Netanyahu’s capacity for political maneuvering, and his potential for re-election, but he thwarted it at the last minute in a legal battle in the Likud’s internal court.  The internal court prohibiting the vote from going ahead on procedural matters.

Then the prime minister showed up to deliver his Central Committee speech before a near empty hall. Only about 400 of the 3,500 delegates of the Likud Central Committee bothered to come to the Israel Trade Fair and Convention Center in Tel Aviv after the vote on relations with Yisrael Beitenu was disallowed.

Netanyahu was himself dragged to the convention against his will. He despises these party gatherings and fears them. The last time he attended an event of the Likud institutions was in May 2012, and it ended in bitter disappointment. Netanyahu left the conference hall in shock after he understood that he was apt to lose to rookie Knesset member Danny Danon in the vote for chairman of the Likud Central Committee. To avoid almost certain humiliation, he fled the scene, leaving behind him a hall brimming with skullcap-wearing settlers.

There are some who claim this May 2012 event was a formative moment for Netanyahu, the moment he understood that he had lost the Likud and that the party was out of his control. Since then, the chairman of the Likud had not set foot in a committee gathering, until Dec. 18.  Only following the success of his legal challenge was Netanyahu convinced to attend the conference.

After the vote was canceled, many of the conference participants left, thus the prime minister found himself speaking to lots of empty chairs. The audience that remained in the hall was apathetic and impatient. Without a doubt it was one of the most boring Likud conventions in recent years. Even Netanyahu, who has always been known for his rhetorical talents and his ability to stir the crowd and even electrify it, seemed dull. He wasn’t heckled, but he didn’t receive enthusiastic applause either. These are not good signs for a serving Likud prime minister who has always received a rousing welcome in the past.

This event is another manifestation of the growing disconnect between the chairman of the Likud and his party. Netanyahu should direct the blame for this situation, at least some of it, toward himself. Since being elected prime minister for the second time, he has avoided contact with field operatives and scorned party politics. His lack of interest in what’s taking place within the Likud has enabled elements of the extreme right who reject any peace deal, to take over Likud institutions right under his nose.

After the lengths Netanyahu went to, to keep his joint list with Lieberman. Lieberman has decided to abandon him anyway.  Bibi has offended his own party and not saved his joint list with Lieberman either. 

Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party has decided to run independently in the next national elections, despite a joint list with Likud in the last election, Voice of Israel public radio reported Thursday. In a closed meeting of the Yisrael Beytenu management on Sunday, party secretary-general Faina Kirshenbaum said that party leader Avigdor Liberman favors running independently and so do the heads of party branches and members of the secretariat.

Kirshenbaum said that Liberman does not want to embarrass Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or destabilize the present Coalition, and the only question is when a formal announcement will be given.

Kirshanbaum also said that her party would not agree to any change in the present Coalition, be it the entry of hareidi parties in place of Yesh Atid, or Labor instead of the Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi). “There is no reason to change the Coalition and we must find a way to live with each other without stepping on each other,” she said.

This position would mean the fall of the government when a peace deal is placed before the cabinet.

It appears that a peace deal or at least the broad outlines of one, will be presented to cabinet after the Passover recess; which is likely to bring down the government. 

Then a regional war is likely as the largest Allied armada to date gathers off Iran and Syria for May, 2014.  

This is likely to be followed by Israeli elections and a new government composed of peace supporters, and approval in cabinet, to be followed by approval in the Knesset and then a national referendum in Israel.

The extremist Settler Movement anti peace deal Israelis, will not sit back and do nothing, and will do their best to sabotage the peace deal as it is achieved.




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