Coalition lost: But the flux in Israel may spur the peace process
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The fluidity that will ensue in Israeli politics after the breakup Tuesday of the Likud-Kadima coalition could provide an opening for a constructive return to the Middle East peace process.
That is the central problem facing Israel as a nation in a sea of Middle East ferment, including in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and other nations.
The Likud-Kadima coalition, formed in May, put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in control of 94 of 120 seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. He had previously presided over a shaky coalition of his own Likud party plus several right-wing and religious parties, which constrained his actions, particularly in negotiations with the Palestinians over their independence and the related issue of accelerating Israeli construction in and immigration to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. These areas would likely comprise part of a Palestinian state when negotiations are completed.
The Likud-Kadima coalition broke over conflicting approaches to including ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli-citizen Arabs in the Israeli Defense Forces and corresponding civilian national service bodies. Roughly speaking, Mr. Netanyahu and Likud took a position leaning toward Israel's religious right, whereas Shaul Mofaz's Kadima, the party established by Ariel Sharon, proposed a more centrist, gradual approach to the problems. Kadima's Knesset members voted 25-3 to dissolve the coalition.
For Israelis, the chief issue at the moment is the resolution of the role of the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli-citizen Arabs in overall Israeli society, problems that only they can resolve among themselves. The future of the Middle East peace process is one which concerns the whole world, including the United States. Palestinians, either catching the contagion sweeping the region, or driven by futility into a third intifada, another violent uprising, need badly to be engaged by the Israelis and the world in serious peace negotiations. After an initial attempt, President Barack Obama has dropped that ball and left it on the field for now.
There will be a temptation by Israeli politicians, starting with Mr. Netanyahu, to say that Israel cannot negotiate with the Palestinians while domestic politics are up in the air, even though elections are not due until October of next year. The failure of the grand, national unity coalition to do so was a disappointment to the world. The new situation could result in fresh resolve by Israel to tackle the hardest problem, long-term Middle East peace. That would make real sense.
First Published July 19, 2012 12:00 am