Israel between war and peace: Trend News commentator

Ulviyya Sadigova, commentator at the Trend Middle East Desk

Palestine-Israel dialogue may be terminated, but that depends on the "right" or "left" orientation of the Israeli Government rather than on Benjamin Netanyahu's personal views. Netanyahu has most chance to become Israeli Prime Minister.

Netanyahu's proposal to his political rivals Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak to form a unified government has failed.

At Feb. 20 meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Tzipi Livni stated that she doesn't want to be a pawn in the government, which opposes her party's aspirations, and decided to go into opposition.

Netanyahu's coming to power is taken in Israel as a failure of the Israel-Palestine truce, as Netanyahu criticizes withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and cessation of hostilities against Hamas.

Netanyahu accused Kadima of inability to ensure security in the country. His attitude towards the war against Hamas may be characterized by one phrase: "Hamas must be eliminated by any means"

Kadima supports continuation of the dialogue by any means. On the backdrop of Kadima's moderate policies pursued during the recent five years, Netanyahu's statements seem to be "dangerous for the peace process".

Netanyahu's statements reflect the mood of the entire Israeli population rather than his personal aspiration to make short work of Hamas. Probably, Likud's position helped Netanyahu win the elections and be supported by most parties, though Likud had one place less than Kadima.

Recently the Israeli press more frequently reports of "right" moods of the population of the country, and this further aggravates the constant missile firings by Hamas across the south of Israel. Being in the zone of constant conflict, the population of the country will be more interested in security and defense from the attacks than in the adoption of the next international reconciliation agreement. War in Gaza was possibly the first step towards political failure of Kadima. Despite numerous victims amongst the innocent civilians of Gaza, Olmert and Livni could not weaken military resistance of Hamas in the region.

It is impossible to describe Netanyahu's attitude towards Palestinians biased. Relation Being Prime Minister in 1996-1999, he signed two important documents with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat: Vi plane-table agreement envisaging giving 13 percent of the territory of West Bank - Judea and to Samaria regions predominantly populated by the Palestinians - to the Palestinians, and the Hevron Agreement, according to which the Palestinians gained control over 80 percent of the territory of city.

In spite of the criticism of the then Israeli government, Netanyahu considered the dislocation of the Israeli troops on the West Bank and the transfer of some territories to Palestinians with as the best step to cease terror in the region.

Livni used analogous principle in order to enlist the support of Palestinian population, stating that "for reconciliation with Palestine, Israel must make territorial concessions and return some regions", but not clarifying what regions exactly - on the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip. However, this only aggravated Livni's position. Taking into account the strengthening political and military power of Hamas, Israelis estimate the transfer of additional territories as bridgehead for the missile firings of Hamas across the south of the country.

Netanyahu could foresee Hamas' becoming politically stronger in 2005. He resigned from the post of finance minister as a response to the Israeli forces' withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. A year later, Hamas won parliamentary election in Palestine and evicted forces of the moderate Fata from the enclave. So, Israel-Hamas conflict deteriorated and flared into a war in Dec. 2008.

Likud is skeptic of the idea of establishing Palestinian state and prefers to speak about "economic solution" of the issue which contradicts Palestinians' interests.

Mahmoud Abbas government, who has less political influence than its rival Hamas, seek to advance dialogue somehow taking into consideration presidential election to be held in the autonomy in a year. "Economic solution of some problems" will only delay time for Abbas, but truce process will not advance.

However, Netanyahu's condition in talks with Palestinians can worsen if Israel will finally "recover" in six weeks during which Netanyahu is expected to form a government.

Avigdor Lieberman's Our Home Israel party and other religious parties do not see any sense in talks with Palestinians until all armed groups are destroyed and issue of Jewish settlements on the West Bank is solved. Lieberman's party was third largest in the parliament for seats and it supported Netanyahu's nomination for the post of the prime minister. Lieberman, who is likely to become defense minister, can influence Israel's domestic policy.

If Netanyahu succeeds to form a government and to head it, Israel is most likely to be isolated by Europe and the U.S. Despite Israel is one of the U.S. military and strategic partners in the region, Barack Obama's administration basks advancing Palestine-Israeli dialogue, but position of the rights coalition contradicts it. 

Israel's deteriorated relations with Turkey after a war in Gaza weakened Israel's position in the region as Turkey was the only Muslim country to maintain military partnership with Tel-Aviv.

Therefore Netanyahu is expected to reconsider staff of the future government so that not to lose military and political domination in the region achieved with the help of Washington and Europe.

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