Israel PM faces dilemma after Likud lurches further right

Updated 27 November 2012
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Israel PM faces dilemma after Likud lurches further right

JERUSALEM: The victory of hard-liners and the sidelining of moderates within Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud does not augur well for the Israeli premier ahead of January elections, commentators warned on Tuesday.
Results published late Monday after a vote to choose Likud’s list for the January 22 elections, showed a victory for hard-liners, with lawmakers who have made a name for themselves by supporting settlement and opposing a Palestinian state looking certain to win a parliamentary seat.
Among the new faces was Netanyahu’s nemesis, Moshe Feiglin, a far-right activist who heads the settler lobby within Likud, while others like Danny Danon, a staunch backer of the settlements and one of the most hard-line MPs in the party, were catapulted to near the top of the list.
At the same time, three Likud ministers known for their moderation — Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan — didn’t make it into the first 35 names on the list, making it highly unlikely they would secure a parliamentary spot.
“The list elected yesterday looks like it was dictated by settlers and the extreme right wing,” wrote Sima Kadmon in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.
“One of the most rightwing MPs in the faction, Danny Danon, is in fifth place... Moshe Feiglin, the man whom the prime minister treated as an outcast for years... will be in the Knesset,” she wrote.
Netanyahu has worked tirelessly to try to prevent Feiglin from securing a viable spot on the list in previous primaries, but Monday’s ballot saw Feiglin being voted into the 14th slot, assuring him a spot in the next parliament, or Knesset.
Even the Israel HaYom freesheet, widely known for its support for Netanyahu, ran with a headline admitting that the party had taken a lurch to the right: “Likud shifts to the right.”
Commentators said the new makeup of the list showed a departure from the traditional liberal political values of the Likud, which was inspired by Revisionist Zionism and represented in the current government by Begin, son of the late prime minister Menahem Begin.
“It’s one thing that they pushed Meridor and Eitan out, who are considered ‘fastidious leftwingers’... but kicking Benny Begin off the list is the strongest expression of the fact that a new Likud was born last night,” wrote Mazal Mualem in the rival Maariv daily.
Begin drew the ire of the settler lobby earlier this year after he backed a Supreme Court decision calling for the evacuation of the Migron settler outpost which was built on private Palestinian land.
“I see the Likud list and it makes me feel bad,” said Zehava Gal-On, head of the leftwing Meretz party.
“We see how settlers have turned the Likud into a nationalistic, extremist rightwing list; how the liberal Likud has passed away today,” she told the Ynet news website.
Even Labour leader Shelly Yachimovich described the list as invoking a sense of “desperation and hopelessness” and said it demonstrated a shift toward extremism.
Commentators warned that the change could prove to be dangerous for Netanyahu, who has until now been in pole position to win the election with Likud and form the next coalition government with his ultranationalist and religious allies.
“The Likud list is bad news for Netanyahu, who has been dragged, despite himself, to the fringes of the rightwing. This veer to the right could cost the Likud at the polling stations,” wrote Yediot commentator Nahum Barnea.
“For the first time since elections were announced, it now seems as if there is no certainty that their results are a foregone conclusion,” he said.
The party’s shift to the right, coupled with its decision to run on a joint electoral list with the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, could see it losing the potential support of voters disaffected with the center-right Kadima party, Barnea said.
The two parties currently hold 42 seats in the outgoing ruling coalition, but a poll published in Maariv on Sunday showed that if an election were held now, the list would only win 37 seats, compared with the 43 projected in survey taken on October 29.
The current coalition, which includes Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and various ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties, holds 66 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, with recent surveys saying the bloc could take 70 if elections were held now.


Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

Updated 30 min 50 sec ago
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Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

  • Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil called for 'effective solutions' for the return of Syrian refugees to their country
  • Summit also called for dialogue over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine

BEIRUT: The fourth Arab Economic and Social Development Summit was held in Beirut on Sunday, in an effort to, among other things, find ways to alleviate the suffering of refugees in the Middle East.

The summit, though attended by representatives from 20 Arab nations, was soured by the absence of most Arab heads of state, and was divided over several issues, including the absence of Syrian delegates, and a boycott by Libya.

The summit did, though, call for dialogue with the international community over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine.

Delegates expressed their support for the Palestinian people, and cited the “collective responsibility” of all parties towards maintaining the city of Jerusalem’s “Islamic and Christian identity.”

In a statement, the summit declared: “We reiterate Palestinian refugees’ rights of return and compensation, according to the UN General Assembly’s resolution 194 of 1948.”

Delegates also discussed at great length the need for international cooperation to support the growing digital economy across the region. They emphasized “the importance of building the necessary capacity” to benefit from the digital economy, and praised the initiative launched by the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to create a sovereign investment fund to support the development of technology in the Gulf and the Middle East.

They urged all Arab nations to “support this initiative to strengthen the joint Arab economy,” and called on other Arab banks and funds to invest in it.

The summit also praised the role of small and medium businesses across the Arab world for their contribution to flourishing Arab economies, as well as the implementation of the Pan-Arab Renewable Energy Strategy 2030, to ensure power across the region becomes cleaner and more sustainable.

The summit was far from harmonious, though, with the Lebanese foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, addressing the hall to ask the international community “to assume its responsibilities by finding effective solutions for the return of Syrian refugees to their country.”

Bassil called on Arab nations and others to “shoulder the burden, honor their commitments and meet the refugees’ needs.”

There were also disputes over the attendance of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as well as the boycott by Libyan delegates.

“I am saddened because of the absence of the Libyan delegation, and by the circumstances that led to this point,” Arab League president, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said.

Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, echoed the words of his foreign minister, calling on the international community “to exert all efforts to provide the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, and to present incentives so they can contribute to their country’s reconstruction.”

He proposed the establishment of an international Arab bank to help affected countries overcome the crisis, and invited established Arab funds to Beirut to discuss his proposals.

“I deplore the absence of other Arab presidents and kings, but each of them has his reason. Our union remains of great importance given that we will not be able to address the challenges facing our region and peoples, unless we agree on key issues,” Aoun said.

The next Arab Economic and Social Development Summit will be held in Mauritania in 2023.