News Analysis: Barak's new faction helps stabilize Netanyahu government

08:56, January 19, 2011      

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According to an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the latter's new faction will receive four portfolios in the Likud-led coalition.

Barak stunned Israel's political establishment early Monday morning when he announced his resignation from the post as chairman of the Labor Party in favor of establishing a new party, the "Independence" (Atzmaut), while taking with him four of Labor' s lawmakers in the Knesset.

Analysts told Xinhua that while it is still too early to tell if the new lineup of the government would portend any drastic change in direction, Barak's new faction will help stabilize Netanyahu's government.

A STABLE GOVERNMENT

Peter Medding, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the departure of some left-leaning Labor members from the government does not automatically mean that the new government will be more right-leaning.

Asked if the new composition of government might affect the Palestinian-Israeli talks, Medding said that much of the old mechanics still remained, along with the resistance from the ultra- orthodox Shas party or Israel Beiteinu, lead by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"Whatever changes the government underwent, I don't think they (the changes) would make the Palestinian-Israeli talks go worse," Medding said, adding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might also face internal Likud opposition over any advance of the peace process.

Medding said in the past the Palestinians might claim that it was impossible to conduct serious peace negotiations with Netanyahu's government, since it constantly faced Labor's threat of leaving the government.

But now, Barak's new faction will provide a much more stable government with which the Palestinians can negotiate, Medding added.

DOMESTIC CONSIDERATIONS

Orit Galili-Zucker from the department of political science at Bar-Ilan University said it was still too early to tell what kind of policies will be adopted by the new government, but they would definitely focus on Barak and Netanyahu's mutual point of view.

Galili-Zucker argued that it does not matter whether the makeup of the new government will be more right-wing, as the policy will be decided by Netanyahu and Barak.

Additionally, she argued the Monday's move was part of a plan by the two to promote a new peace plan without specifying what such a plan might include.

Galili-Zucker said that the new setup could very well affect the relation between Netanyahu and Lieberman, which has been tense in the past over sharp disagreements of who really is in charge of Israel's foreign policy.

Last Thursday, Lieberman commented on the situation in Lebanon, despite strict instructions issued from the Prime Minister's Bureau a day earlier that no ministers should make any public statements on the issue.

Galili-Zucker contended that in 60 days Lieberman will possibly face an indictment for alleged involvement in obstruction of justice, fraud, bribery and money laundering, and if that will be the case, "it's going to change the scene and the whole play."

The investigation against Lieberman has been ongoing since 2006.

"I think they know that Lieberman is going to face political troubles and that they are preparing themselves for this option," Galili-Zucker said, referring to Barak and Netanyahu whom she described as "tricky."

FURTHER AWAY FROM PEACE

Palestinian analyst Hani Masri said Barak's move had definitely strengthened Netanyahu's government, and that it takes away the chance that Labor would one day leave the government, causing it to fall, or "a change in the government with the entry of Kadima."

"What Barak has done shows that he is not a leftist," Masri said, adding that the decision by Barak shows that he is "willing to be in the government more than anything else."

Masri said he thought that the chance of reaching a peace agreement was lessened now that many of the left-wing politicians had quit the government.

"I think the Israeli government is against peace and serious negotiations," Masri said.

He also predicted that following the establishment of the new government, the Palestinians would focus their efforts on unilateral actions.

"We must try another strategy to force Israel to accept our goals, because negotiations have failed and more talks without a serious frame of reference will fail again," Masri said.

Source: Xinhua

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