Israel plunged toward a political crisis Tuesday after the largest party in the government quit, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in charge of a hard-line coalition opposed to most Mideast peace moves.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tore a tendon and will have to wear a cast for several weeks after he injured himself during a friendly soccer match between Jewish and Arab youths.
Go to Source
An Israeli official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is recommending that authorities physically move the buildings of an illegal West Bank outpost slated for demolition later this month.
Go to Source
The grand coalition formed by the Kadima party in Israel joining the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu may have caught almost all outsiders by surprise, still, in the view of well-placed Israelis, this new “wall-to-wall” government will not be willing nor able to significantly alter current policy. “Sure, it gives Bibi greater room to maneuver at home,” says one well-placed Israeli, who knows the Prime Minister well, “But it still is the same old Bibi and his same old policies.” This “same old Bibi” has been a thorn in the side of two US Administrations. While the coolness between the Israeli leader and President Obama is well known, during his last term in office, the more politically adroit President Clinton was known privately to be as exasperated with Netanyahu behavior both personally and politically during the latter’s first term of office. An example cited by a veteran US official, who, at one point was tasked with listening as the two leaders spoke by phone, reported that Netanyahu jauntily opened the conversation with “How’s Hillary?” This uncalled for familiarity caused the President to turn “a number of shades of red” as he struggled to control his reaction….
?Psychological musings aside, Israeli officials see a relatively simple political calculus behind Netanyahu’s last minute deal with Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz. “Bibi is buying time,” says one official. Although election will now not take place in September and does not have to occur before autumn 2013, many observers believe Netanyahu will call for them early in the spring when the grand coalition has served its purpose of boosting the Prime Minister both at home and abroad.
?Even the addition of Mofaz, a former commander in chief of Israel’s armed forces and a public critic of a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, will not change Netanyahu’s thinking on what he calls “the existential threat” posed by Iran obtaining nuclear capability. To begin with, Israeli analysts says that Mofaz staked out that position as part of an effort to wrest leadership of the Kadima party and is just as likely to change to a pro-attack view in the future. More important, it still is Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak (whose seat in Parliament probably was saved by the postponement of a fall 2012 election) who, in the view of most analysts, still hold the key to an ultimate decision whether to resort to a military option. “I can list nine good reasons why Bibi won’t launch a strike, starting with domestic opposition to going it alone and going on to the risk of military failure to the certainty of international opprobrium,” says one key US official. “On the other side of the ledger, I need list only one –Bibi’s messianic drive to be “the savior of the Jewish people.”
?If matters ever come to a head on military action, it will be because the new set of negotiations between Iran and the P-5 +1 (US, Britain , France, China, Russia and German) fail. At the first session last month in Istanbul, the Iranians were surprisingly forthcoming, given the low expectations for the meeting. However, when the parties next meet in Baghdad on May 23, as one European diplomat puts it, “The paradigm (of whether negotiations are a viable route to halt Iran’s drive towards nuclear weaponry] will be tested.” This diplomat, if not top Administration officials, credit Israel and its supporters in Congress for forcing Iran back to serious negotiating. Clearly, Teheran is feeling the pinch of economic sanctions that already are hurting the Iranian economy and beginning July 1, when new EU sanctions kick in, further pain is to be experienced.
?Boding well for the talks is the near total consolidation of power by Ayotallah Khameini mostly at the expense of President Ahmadenejad. Prospect of concessions to the P5+1 always had the potential of working against a faction of the Iranian leadership which supported a deal. The bad news, according to long time analysts, is that Khameini is thought to believe that concessions made under pressure only lead to more pressure. And it is also thought that the “Supreme Leader” is convinced that the West, especially the US, wants nothing less than “regime change” in Iran. Moreover, few experts doubt, as one veteran analyst put it recently, “The ultimate aim of Iran, in its quest to be the paramount power in the region, depends on what he calls `getting as close as possible to being one screwdriver away from having the capability to assemble a nuclear bomb.”
?For all the attention the Iranian leadership must pay to international pressure against their nuclear program, it has not deterred Teheran from becoming deeply involved in efforts to insure that the Assad regime in Syria prevails…
?Arrayed against Iran and the Assad regime are various international players, who, however, so far have been unable to boost the strength of the internal opposition. Promises of support from Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have amounted to little more than vocal condemnations, say well-placed US officials. The key, in the view of many experts, is Turkey. But the Turkish leadership, beginning with Prime Minister Erdogan, has only made modest steps towards trying alter the balance of power in Syria. “The Turks need NATO; NATO needs the UN Security Council and the Security Council needs the full throated support of the Arab League,” says one well-placed US official. So far, Turkey has moved from its original “no issues with neighbors” policy to outright condemnation of the Assad regime; hosted political dissidents and provided some aid and comfort to both refugees and the nascent “Free Syrian Army.” According to US officials, they have also stepped up their contingency planning and are, in the words of one senior official, “fed-up” with the Assad regime. There is even the recognition that its strategic interests trump those of Russia, Iran’s other major supporter. But US officials are convinced that absent some major overnight development on the ground in Syria, the Turks will not act decisively or independently. And as the UN promoted cease-fire plan sputters, the continued one-side slaughter in Syria leaves US officials frustrated on the sidelines. As one veteran State Department official puts it, “We have no `Plan B’”
The Israeli parliament approves a coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Kadima party of Shaul Mofaz.
Go to Source
A controversial practice that has allowed tens of thousands of young ultra-Orthodox men to avoid compulsory military service has emerged as a looming test for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government — and one that could create major mayhem in the Jewish state.
The first rifts in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expanded coalition emerged just a day after the Israeli leader brought the main opposition party into his government, with religious and secular parties exchanging threats Wednesday over draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews.