Benjamin Netanyahu Stays in Power After Israel Vote, Faces Sharp Challenges

Bibi Must Forge Coalition Weakened By Poor Election Showing

Weakened by Vote: Benjamin Netanyahu now faces the daunting task of building a coalition.
Weakened by Vote: Benjamin Netanyahu now faces the daunting task of building a coalition.

By Reuters

Published January 23, 2013.
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A senior member of Yesh Atid, led by former television presenter Yair Lapid, said the issue of ending exemption from military service was central to the party’s platform, as was reviving peace talks with the Palestinians.

“Whoever wants Yesh Atid in the coalition will need to bring these things,” Ofer Shelah told Army Radio.

“COSMETIC DECORATION”

Palestinians reacted warily to the outcome of the poll, voicing doubts it would produce a government more willing to compromise for peace, even if it included centrist parties.

An editorial in the Ramallah-based Al-Quds daily said such parties would provide a “cosmetic decoration” for a Netanyahu-led government that would mislead world public opinion without halting a drive to expand Jewish settlement on occupied land.

“We’re not seeking to make peace with this or that party in Israel,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, adding that peace required creation of a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel based on the lines that existed before the 1967 war.

Netanyahu, with his scarcely veiled threats of military action against Iran and his tough approach to the Palestinians, has had a fractious relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama, who himself embarked on a new term this week.

“The first challenge was and remains preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said, claiming election victory at Likud campaign headquarters after midnight.

Iran denies it is planning to build an atomic bomb, and says Israel, widely believed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, is the biggest threat to the region.

Netanyahu views Tehran’s nuclear programme as a threat to Israel’s existence and has stoked international concern by hinting at possible Israeli military action to thwart it.

He has shunted Palestinian peacemaking well down the agenda despite Western concern to keep the quest for a solution alive.


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