After weeks of political wrangling, bartering and tactical maneuvering, Likud leader and newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has formed a government that he has termed a true national unity coalition with member parties ranging from Israel Baiteinu to Labour. His government is indeed among the more diverse Israel has seen.
As he is now in the midst of formulating official government policy, Israel is faced with a mountain of challenges, including Iran, the economy and cooling relations with America. If Bibi is to successfully steer the country through these tumultuous times ahead and fulfill the mandate bestowed upon him by the people of Israel he will have to ensure that he is politically respected both in International and domestic politics. Here are some points that seem vital for serious consideration:
1. There have recently been a slew of policy related statements and declarations by various ministers and officials, a few of them even contradictory. Knesset speaker and Likud member Reuven Rivlin, while visiting Umm El-Fahm an Arab city in the Wadi Ara area of the northern Galilee, promised that the restive city would remain an integral part of the State of Israel, and said that he did not believe that Arab citizens should be expected to sing the national anthem. This is in blatant contrast to various statements of foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. Similarly, defense minister Ehud Barak has announced to the press that a two state solution is the best and only way forward, a line that Bibi himself has been reluctant to commit to. Once signed into the coalition, all ministers fall under Netanyahu’s jurisdiction. Netanyahu must now get his house under control. In order to gain much needed respect, the government of Israel must speak with one voice.
2. Obama’s administration has marginalized Israel in its policies of international diplomacy by its flirtation and partial engagement with Israel’s enemies. There is also an apparent lack of respect for the will of the Israeli people made clear by the US administration’s insistence that the two state solution is the only path towards peace. This was brought home by the following report of a statement made by Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to an unnamed Jewish leader: “In the next four years, there will be a peace agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it does not matter to us who is the prime minister.” Furthermore, it is becoming apparent that America has decided that the world can accept a nuclear Iran, something which is not an option for Israel. Bibi must show Obama that Israel won’t be marginalized. One definitive way to do this is by taking swift and decisive military action against Iran, standing up to Obama as Begin stood up to Regan in 1982. Those concerned about the American reaction need to remember that America does not support Israel for charitable reasons, but for strategic ones. This support is not contingent upon Israel wagging its tail like a happy puppy. Support will continue, and below the din of the public outcry every head of state will congratulate Israel for their fine work.
3. As I mentioned earlier Bibi has seemed reluctant to commit to spearheading the creation of a Palestinian state. If his cabinet does have an alternate approach in mind as a solution to the Palestinian problem, he should make haste in presenting it together with a compelling presentation to a skeptical world as to why his plan is better. Presenting a comprehensive alternate strategy for regional progress will show a pioneering visionary spirit. Although he may not be liked for this approach he will be respected for it.
4. Recent media reports claimed that Bibi had demanded that the PA first recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a prerequisite to any talks. Following this there were reports that Mitchell dismissed these demands as outrageous, Bibi made a formal statement on Monday saying that this was never in fact a prerequisite. Even if none of these accounts prove to be true, Bibi must never appear to flip flop if he is to be effective, he must remain firm and resolute in all decisions, showing the people that he has learned the lessons of the past and chooses what is best for the Israel as opposed to sailing in the strongest wind.