Obama at UN 2010 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The US is bracing
for a political upheaval on Tuesday when the Republicans are expected to
win back control of Congress in what is seen as a protest vote against
the policies and performance of President Barack Obama.
of Obama inside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inner circle
cautioned this week against seeing the Democrats’ likely defeat as a
victory for Israel. They said they were fully aware that losing control
over Congress may tie the president’s hands on domestic issues, but that
when it comes to foreign policy, Obama will likely remain unshackled,
unreconstructed and perhaps more determined than ever to pressure Israel
into a deal with the Palestinians.
if nothing is expected to change on Wednesday morning, why has local
politics been in such a holding pattern ahead of the American election?
with all due respect to the storm in a teacup over stipends for kollel
students, when it comes to coalition politics, it takes diplomatic
issues to really rock the boat – or in this case, Barack the boat. As
long as efforts to revive the diplomatic process are on hold until after
the election, so is any real political tension over here.
would undoubtedly prefer it if Netanyahu were to throw out his coalition
partners on the Right and build a new government with Kadima. He hinted
as such when he singled out Interior Minister Eli Yishai as an obstacle
to peace following the Ramat Shlomo building project controversy in a
TV interview that Shas has said would be featured prominently in its
But despite constant speculation and wishful
thinking on the part of some, a partnership between Netanyahu and his
nemesis, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, remains extremely unlikely. It
is more possible that missteps in Washington or the West Bank that could
prevent the peace process from moving forward would result in Labor
leaving and being replaced by the far-right National Union, which would
give Netanyahu a very stable, 65-MK, right-wing coalition and a lot more
headaches in his dealings with the impatient international community.
HEADLINE, “Between Barack and a hard place,” that has been used in this
newspaper and others still best describes Netanyahu’s political
The main threat to his coalition still comes from the
Left. Labor leadership candidate Avishay Braverman, who is the main
threat to quit the coalition, has said that it is Obama who is keeping
the government together by maintaining pressure on Netanyahu and the
Palestinians to keep doing whatever is necessary to advance the peace
Or in other words, the coalition is “solid as Barack.”
is also extremely important to Netanyahu to keep Labor in the
government and satisfied, because of the centrist fig leaf provided by
Labor chairman Ehud Barak and because he wants to keep Barak, his former
commander in the IDF, in the Defense Ministry ahead of key decisions on
The counterweight on the right to Barak and Barack has
thus far come not from any of the right-wing politicians in the
coalition but from the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria
and the Gaza Strip under the savvy leadership of Dani Dayan and
Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Naftali Bennett.
Israeli Tea Party movement that will be launched at a rally Sunday night
at Tel Aviv’s ZOA House will attempt to mobilize the grassroots against
a further settlement freeze in an additional counterbalance to Barack.
While the 15-MK Israel Beiteinu faction could bring down the government,
party chairman Avigdor Lieberman has no interest in doing that when his
political fate is expected to be decided by Attorney- General Yehuda
Weinstein in the coming months. Lieberman said at a press conference
this month that he expected the government to complete its term, which
is set to end on October 22, 2013. Israel Beiteinu and Shas have both
already said they would remain in the coalition even if a construction
moratorium in Judea and Samaria is renewed. Habayit Hayehudi would
likely do the same as long as the freeze is framed in the proper
context. No Likud ministers are hurrying to quit either.
The goal that aides to Netanyahu and Obama have quietly been working on
achieving behind the scenes has been to find an arrangement that would
enable Netanyahu to renew the freeze without losing his credibility and
without allowing the Palestinian leadership to continue to avoid coming
to the negotiating table.
If they succeed at finding what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
last week called the “magic formula,” the talks could take place behind
closed doors and if there are no leaks, Netanyahu’s coalition could
enter a period of stability that could last until either a breakthrough
or a breakdown is announced.
That’s what could happen after Tuesday’s election if everyone
cooperates. Between now and then, Netanyahu can relax for one more
Then he will have to be ready to Barack and roll.