- Avigdor Lieberman - Benjamin Netanyahu - Israel - Israeli politics - Israeli-Palestinian conflict - Likud
Benjamin Netanyahu stopped short of calling for a Palestinian state on Tuesday as he addressed the Israeli Knesset to present his fledgling government before MPs. The prime minister-designate nevertheless took on a somewhat conciliatory tone about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, stressing the need to “reach a longstanding agreement.”
"I say to the Palestinian leadership, if you truly want peace, peace can be obtained,” he said. “With the Palestinian Authority, we will seek peace along three tracks -- economic, security and political."
Israel committed itself to the creation of a Palestinian state under the 2003 international roadmap for peace. But Netanyahu has argued that economic conditions should be improved in the occupied West Bank before pursuing negotiations on other issues.
How much of this programme he will be able to deliver on remains to be seen. “Netanyahu is very much a pragmatist,” says FRANCE 24’s Annette Young in Jerusalem. “He’ll do what he can to ease himself into the job and avoid confrontation with the new American administration.
Palestinian reactions to the speech were quick to come. The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu's statements on peace were “not encouraging".
A 'very mixed bag of parties'
Despite the presence of centre-left Labour, the 69-strong coalition in the 120-seat Knesset leans heavily to the right, and includes Netanyahu’s Likud, the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, ultra-Orthodox Shas, and a small pro-settlement party.
“I would like to thank those members of the parliament who understood where our responsibilities lie and how great the task ahead of us is,” Netanyahu said. “They were perhaps hesitant before coming to that decision [of joining the coalition] but they’ve decided now to help this government of unity.”
As a taste of what lies ahead, Netanyahu’s speech was interrupted on several occasions by hecklers.
“This is a very mixed bag of parties with some on the left and others on the religious right,” says FRANCE 24’s international editor Rob Parsons. “Trying to hold them together is going to be difficult.”
Israel bound to resist the crisis, says Netanyahu
Taking the stand just ten years after he first served as prime minister, the 59-year-old Netanyahu developed his campaign themes of economy and security.
Addressing the impact of the current global economic crisis, Netanyahu said Israel had an advantage over the rest of the world, namely its small size.
“I don’t know when this crisis will end but I know Israel can resist better,” he said. “It’s easier to change the course of a small boat than that of a big ship.”
But this is hardly smooth sailing. Some last-minute glitches came from inside his own Likud party, where hardliners are reportedly furious that he gave both the foreign and finance ministries to other parties in the coalition.
“It has been reported that, in a last-ditch attempt to appease his rival Silvan Shalom, Netanyahu offered him the foreign ministry, thereby taking it away from the ultra-nationalist Avigdor Liebermann,” says FRANCE 24’s Annette Young in Jerusalem. “If that were true, Yisrael Beiteinu would have no choice but to pull itself out of the coalition.” Official confirmation of Netanyahu’s pick for the coveted ministry is thought to be imminent.