Yair Lapid, leader de Yesh Atid.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Just when he thought he was out, they dragged him back in.
Benjamin Netanyahu must have been feeling a bit like that this week.
Just when he thought the wave of terrorism was dying down, it erupted with a vengeance.
Just when he thought he was off the hook and there would be no further pressure from the Obama administration on the diplomatic front, reports surfaced that the president was considering one final push before he leaves office.
And just when he thought he had killed off any opposition, he found Yair Lapid breathing down his neck.
The death of US citizen Taylor Force in Tuesday’s stabbing rampage in Tel Aviv was the first fatality in a Palestinian terrorist attack in over two weeks and brought the number of people killed by Palestinian violence since September last year to 34. On the same day, a shooting in Jerusalem’s Salah a-Din Street near the Old City left two police officers seriously wounded, while another stabbing in Petah Tikva and a shooting the following day by two armed terrorists in Jerusalem dispelled any notion that the violence has died down.
Tuesday’s attack took place not far from where US Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with former president Shimon Peres and just hundreds of meters away from where Biden’s wife and grandchildren were dining on the beach. But while Biden condemned the attacks and more significantly the failure by some parties (aka the Palestinian Authority) to condemn terrorism, nothing has changed on the diplomatic front.
Biden noted that force alone will not solve the situation and while he did not mention a resumption of talks by name, he said that “even though it may be very hard to see the way ahead, we continue to encourage all sides to take steps to move back to the path to peace.”
Prior to Biden’s arrival, The Wall Street Journal reported that Barack Obama is likely to follow in the footsteps of predecessors Bill Clinton and George W.
Bush and make a push for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement in the twilight of his presidency. The Journal quoted senior officials as saying the president wants to “put the issue on a more promising trajectory before his successor takes office in January.”
One way Obama could do that is to instruct his ambassador to the United Nations to drop the traditional US veto and vote for or abstain from a possible Security Council resolution; perhaps one put forward by France which is seeking to revive its own initiative and last year failed to get the US on board for a resolution that would set the parameters for talks between Israel and the Palestinians and set a deadline for a deal.
If the US were to take such a step, the result could be a subtle change in the parameters for solving the conflict that have existed since Resolution 242 was passed following the Six Day War. From the indefinite language of 242 with its wiggle room for interpretation over territories there may be a more definite statement on two states based on the 1967 lines with land swaps to accommodate the settlement blocs. It is a change that Israeli officials are deeply concerned over.
Meanwhile, one year on from last year’s elections, Yair Lapid is now breathing down Netanyahu’s neck after a term as finance minister that saw his political capital head south.
A poll taken for Channel 1 Television on Wednesday found that Lapid had bounced back after dropping from 19 seats in the previous elections to 11 last year and was now up to 21 seats just four less than Netanyahu’s Likud, which drops from 30 seats to 25.
Netanyahu’s image as Mr. Security has been tarnished by the violence and Lapid, the former amateur boxer, has shifted to the right and repeatedly pounded the prime minister for Israel’s isolation on the diplomatic front, opportunistically picking up on events to show his credentials for the job.
Despite slipping in the polls, Netanyahu still comes in first as the candidate most fit to be prime minister and would be the only candidate able to forge a coalition; but if the violence continues and the US changes tack, further eroding Israel’s international position, Lapid could be provided with enough ammunition to go the whole nine yards.