US President Barack Obama’s decision to visit Israel will help expedite Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to build a broad national-unity
government, senior Likud officials said on Wednesday.
The White House
denied accusations that the announcement of Obama’s intention to visit Israel
was aimed at pressuring Netanyahu to build a more dovish coalition.
Likud officials said Netanyahu did not need to be pushed, because he already
intended to include three Center- Left parties in his government: Yair Lapid’s
Yesh Atid, Kadima and The Tzipi Livni Party.
“He wanted Lapid and Livni
and now it will be easier to get them,” a senior Likud source said. “Obama’s
visit sends a message to them that serious developments are taking place and
they need to join as soon as possible to have an impact.”
made an effort to focus on key diplomatic and security issues since the
election, in an effort to create a business-asusual atmosphere that could help
Likud Beytenu in the coalition talks. He has said repeatedly that the events in
the Middle East do not stop for the coalition negotiations, and therefore the
parties must behave responsibly by compromising.
While whenever there
were developments with Obama in the past, MKs on the Right went out of their way
to criticize the US president, this time even the most outspoken Obama critics
in the Knesset made a point of being reserved. A Likud official said it was
because politicians were too scared to talk while decisions were being made
about who would receive portfolios and Knesset committee
“I am glad Obama learned his lesson and is coming to visit
his country’s closest ally in the Middle East,” said Likud MK Danny Danon, who
wrote an anti- Obama book in English last year.
“The president will see
that since the last time he came in 2008 when he was a presidential candidate,
things in the region have gotten more complex.”
While the right-wing My
Israel organization has come out against Obama’s visit, its founder, Bayit
Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, said she had no problem with the president
“It is an honor for Israel,” Shaked said carefully.
negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Shaked said that “if Netanyahu
wants to talk, he should talk,” as long as the prime minister stands up for his
“When Ehud Barak was prime minister, he offered [then-PA
president Yasser] Arafat everything, and Arafat refused. When Ehud Olmert was
prime minister, he offered [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] everything, and he
refused. There is no chance Netanyahu will offer the same,” Shaked
The Bayit Yehudi MK pointed out that Netanyahu refused to freeze
settlement construction a second time, despite PA demands and US
Still, Shaked said it was important to have Bayit Yehudi in the
coalition while these issues were being dealt with, so the party could stand
staunchly to Netanyahu’s right.
MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), who is
acting Knesset speaker until the coalition is formed, asked Netanyahu to request
that Obama give a speech in the Knesset.
Then-US presidents Jimmy Carter,
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush addressed the Knesset in the past.
Israeli people certainly are thirsty to hear the president of the US speak to it
directly, and there is no better place for him to do it than the Knesset,”
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu), who was speaker of
the 18th Knesset and is considered the leading candidate for the post in the
19th, also called for Obama to speak in the legislature.
Rivlin said the
Knesset was an arena for arguments and decisions, and the only place to present
diplomatic plans with decisive ramifications.
“All world leaders who
visited Israel, including US presidents that preceded [Obama], and [then]
Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, visited the Knesset, out of understanding that
it is the House of Representatives of the Nation of Israel and the source of the
State of Israel’s power as a democratic country,” Rivlin said.