Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Political Obstacle Course on Road to Peace Talks

Fiercest Opponents Are Inside Coalition — and Own Party

getty images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published July 25, 2013, issue of August 02, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Here’s Netanyahu’s dilemma: Only about 45 or 50 current members of the 120-member Knesset would vote against a two-state peace agreement, but 35 or 40 of them are in his current 68-seat coalition. A peace accord could easily win a vote on the Knesset floor, but it’s not clear it could get through the coalition to reach the floor.

Just how complicated his life is right now was driven home at a meeting of his inner security Cabinet, also on Saturday night. As reported in the Times of Israel, the Cabinet convened to discuss planned cuts in the defense budget. Netanyahu had invited his close ally Yuval Steinitz, a non-member of the inner Cabinet who was finance minister in the last government and is now minister of intelligence affairs.

Before getting to the budget, however, Netanyahu started to discuss Kerry and the Palestinian talks. At that point, Finance Minister Yair Lapid demanded that Steinitz leave the room since he’s not a member of the inner cabinet. When Netanyahu argued that Steinitz had valuable perspectives on the topic, Lapid suggested inviting his own ally, Science Minister Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet security service and the most dovish minister in Netanyahu’s government — and, as Lapid pointed out, the only minister other than defense chief Moshe Yaalon with a security background. At that point Netanyahu folded and ordered Steinitz to leave.

Lapid’s jab had a double irony. In the previous government the security Cabinet had 14 members, including eight from the Likud and two or three each from the smaller coalition partners. In the current coalition Netanyahu insisted on limiting the security Cabinet to just seven members — four from his Likud-Beiteinu bloc and one each from the other partners — specifically, according to reports, in order to prevent Lapid from naming Peri as his party’s second representative.

The Peri flap was just the latest reminder of the overwhelming opposition within the security establishment to Netanyahu’s go-slow approach to Palestinian peace talks. On June 19, Chief of Central Command General Nitzan Alon, who commands Israeli forces in the West Bank, warned in a speech of a third violent intifada looming if there isn’t serious movement in the peace process.

On July 14, former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin published a blistering, 3,200-word attack on the political leadership for jeopardizing Israel’s survival by continuing settlement construction and failing to achieve a two-state agreement with the Palestinians. That same day, Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich announced a November 14 leadership primary. Her lead challenger will probably be the former military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, who’s expected to attack her for neglecting the peace process. Another likely challenger is former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin.

What happens in the Labor Party is of considerable interest to Netanyahu right now. If peace talks progress, Bennett’s 12 Jewish Home lawmakers will almost certainly leave the coalition. Bibi will need Labor to maintain his Knesset majority. That won’t be easy if Labor is in the middle of a messy leadership scrap, especially if the contenders are trying to outdo each other in beating up on Bibi.

But there’s another trap. If Bibi does decide to assemble a new coalition to pursue peace, he’ll have a hard time remaining in charge of it. The lawmakers who would back a peace accord would be unlikely to choose Netanyahu as their leader.

If Netanyahu is serious about making a deal with the Palestinians — and that’s still hotly debated among friends and foes alike — he’ll have to do some pretty delicate maneuvering.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.