Israel's Rightward Shift Sparks Worries

Americans Fear Peace Will Be Casualty of Election Results

The fast-shifting Israeli political scene has U.S. policymakers fearing the worst for the peace process after the January 22 elections.
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The fast-shifting Israeli political scene has U.S. policymakers fearing the worst for the peace process after the January 22 elections.

By Nathan Guttman

Published December 19, 2012, issue of December 21, 2012.

Election fever in Israel has Americans playing catch-up in an attempt to grasp the country’s political shifts and realignments.

The Israeli elections, scheduled for January 22, 2013, will feature a Likud list dominated by representatives of the right wing and the settler communities, and a fractured political center that is split into four competing parties. With pollsters predicting a win for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition, Washington is faced with a new Israeli political map in which the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is largely off the table both for the ruling party and for many of the centrists for whom America had quietly cheered in the past.

“For those who follow Israeli politics, there is some nervousness,” said David Makovsky, an expert on Israel at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who noted that only a few names on the new Likud list are supporters of the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “This makes people here wonder where Israel is heading,” he said.

UPDATE: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned after being charged with fraud and breach of trust. Lieberman later vowed to continue to run in the January elections, and suggested he would aim to return in a high government post.

In the upcoming elections Netanyahu’s party will run in a joint list with Yisrael Beiteinu, led by ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, a hard-liner known for his tough approach to any compromise with the Palestinians, and who in the past advocated a transfer of Israeli Arabs to a Palestinian state.

In his term as foreign minister, Lieberman did not deal much with relations between Israel and the United States, mainly because of Israeli concerns that his views would put a strain on the already tense relationship between Netanyahu and President Obama. But recently, with Lieberman settling in as Netanyahu’s second in command and potential successor, the straight-shooting foreign minister made a trip to Washington in which he dispelled any speculation that climbing up the political ladder in Israel would bring about any change in his tone.



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