Netanyahu eyes Nathan Sharansky for foreign minister

After Labor and Kadima leader Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni refused to join his wall-t-wall national government, Israel’s designated prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has launched negotiations for a centrist government coalition supported by a parliamentary majority of 65 members of the right-of-center and religious parties. Three or four ministers will be drawn from outside political parties: Nathan Sharansky is Netanyahu’s choice for the foreign ministry; governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fisher was his first choice for finance, but declined, and a professional soldier or security figure is sought for defense.
The cabinet-making process was speeded up after Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Beteini endorsed Netanyahu’s bid, decided he is not after any of those fiercely-contested top jobs. He prefers the ministry of industry, commerce and labor, with the possible addition of infrastructure and honorific of deputy prime minister.
Sharansky, a respected world figure whom the Soviet government sentenced to hard labor as a human rights activist and founder of the Jewish Refusenik movement in Moscow, was released in East Germany in 1986 and settled in Israel.
He served in various cabinet posts until 2006, when he established the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Institute, named for its sponsor the American tycoon Sheldon Adelson. One of its major projects is the promotion of democracy in Palestinian society. The former chief of staff and Likud newcomer (Ret.) Gen. Moshe Yaalon, a research associate, is one of the frontrunners for defense.
Sharanksy has won bipartisan US honors, including the 1986 Congressional Gold Medal and the 2008 Ronald Reagan Freedom Award and is exceptionally well connected with policy-shaping institutions in America. Sharansky would be a persuasive spokesman for the Netanyahu government’s policies, especially on Palestinian issues, who would be heeded with respect by foreign governments.
The Likud leader is still in the early stages of lining up his cabinet and has not clinched any appointments as yet.

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