Netanyahu’s Bid for a Moderate Coalition Partner Misfires

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s first choice as new partner to shore up the wafer-thin majority of his coalition government was the moderate opposition leader Yitzchak Herzog, the leader of the left of-center Zionist Camp. He is a persona grata in the West, especially Washington.
Netanyahu fears that Obama will try to retaliate for the prime minister’s unrelenting struggle last year against the Iranian nuclear deal, including his speech before a joint session of Congress on March 3. It was an unprecedented speech by a foreign leader on Capitol Hill against a sitting president.
He therefore set out to build two “defensive walls”. One is a Middle Eastern “wall” consisting of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, and the other, domestic Israeli “wall” with Herzog.
But DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Jerusalem point out that Obama has six motives for getting back at Netanyahu:
1. Poor relationship between Netanyahu and the White House staff, especially senior officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
2. Obama considers Netanyahu to be the prime mover behind the opposition raised by the Saudi royal family, especially King Abdullah who died in January, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to his Middle East policy. The US president belives the prime minister acted behind the scenes to set up a new Middle Eastern bloc, which the administration considers anti-American, consisting of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.
3. Obama is not ready to forgive Netanyahu for not supporting his position on the March 2014 invasion of the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine. In Obama’s view, by refusing to supply weapons to the Ukrainian army he gave direct political support to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
4. Netanyahu’s pro-Russian policy and frequent meetings with Putin, while avoiding coming to Washington to meet with Obama, have sparked anger in the White House.
5. Netanyahu thwarted every initiative by the administration for talks with the Palestinians, and rejected all of its efforts to that end.
6. Netanyahu’s open support for Republican candidate Mitt Romney who ran against Obama in the 2012 election. The prime minister took action and spoke openly against the election of Obama to a second term, and even made sure that his confidante and close friend Sheldon Adelson provided Romney’s campaign with unprecedented massive support.
This week Netanyahu tried to connect the two defensive walls that he is building.
On Tuesday, May 17, the Egyptian president promised closer ties with Israel in exchange for its resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians, and offered to mediate a reconciliation between Palestinian factions ahead of peace with Israel.
“If we are able to solve the issue of our Palestinian brothers it will achieve warmer peace … I ask that the Israeli leadership allow this speech to be broadcast in Israeli one or two times as this is a genuine opportunity,” he said.
“I say to our Palestinian brothers, you must unite the different factions in order to achieve reconciliation and quickly. We as Egypt are prepared to take on this role. It is a real opportunity to find a long-awaited solution.”
The Egyptian President’s speech would have supported the appointment of Herzog as Foreign Minster to lead Israel at a regional peace conference. But coalition negotiation with him crashed Wednesday night. Netanyahu reacted with a ploy to shore up his government by offering the defense portfolio to the hawkish Avigdor Lieberman. Unfortunately Lieberman is the last Israeli official that Obama wants to see in Washington or Jerusalem.

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