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February 07, 2013

BARACK OBAMA & BIBI'S COALITION PUZZLE

The timing is critical - smack in the middle of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's complex coalition consultations U.S. President Barack Obama announces a long overdue visit to Israel. Both the White House in Washington and Bibi's backers in Jerusalem are playing down any notion of a new U.S. peace initiative for Israel and the Palestinians. Perish the thought! But in international relations, actions speak louder than words.

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January 24, 2013

Israeli Elections - Nevertheless Bibi?

 It's a long way from over but there has already been a major shift in Israel's general election. Prime Minister Binyamin has suffered a major setback with his Likud-Beiteinu party dropping by 25% in its Knesset seats taking only thirty one seats. Newcomer Yair Lapid is the big winner; his 'Future' party', although expected to do well, is expected to win at least 19 seats. Lapid has now become kingmaker, unless Netanyahu wants to commit political suicide by sticking to his former ultra-orthodox parties and including the far Right Naftali Bennett. Analyst David Essing says the question is whether Netanyahu can now make an offer that Lapid will find hard to refuse and join a new Netanyahu government.

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January 21, 2013

Israel at the Ballot Box

 With Israeli society more polarized than ever, a staunchly right-wing government is only more likely to exacerbate these divisions. Gilead Sher and Olivia Holt-Ivry discuss the elections in Israel.

 Projecting elections is a risky task, even more so in Israel. At the end of the dramatic 1996 Election Day, the public went to bed with expectations of Shimon Peres as the next prime minister, only to awaken the following morning to Binyamin Netanyahu having won by a slim 30,000 votes. Beating all political commentators, politicians and analysts, the outcome of those elections — held after the traumatic assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin — should be a lesson in humility when predicting developments in the Israeli political arena. Consequently, the following is a guide for perplexed observers, rather than a projection of the general elections’ results.

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January 19, 2013

Israel's Perplexed Voters

 The Israeli election campaign has entered the home stretch with all the polls indicating that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu party will win more seats than other. As things stand, Netanyahu could form a new coalition government with Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home party and the ultra-orthodox parties that could command a 63 seat majority in the 120 member Knesset. However analyst David Essing reports that the Left and Centrist parties contend there are as twenty seats that could be decided by floating voters; this means there is still a chance of closing the gap and forging a blocking majority. In any case, state President Shimon Peres will consult with all the parties that win seats and ask them whom they support for prime minister. Peres will then decide which leader has the best chance of forming a new coalition and authorize him or her to commence negotiations on building a coalition that will command a 61 seat majority in the Knesset.

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January 11, 2013

Chuck Hagel & Shimon Peres

 In the midst of Israel's current election campaign, two developments have caught the headlines in Israel. First, U.S. President Barack Obama's selecting of Chuck Hagel as the new U.S. Secretary of Defense and the New York Times interview with Israel's President Shimon Peres have caught the headlines in Israel. 

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January 01, 2013

Israel's Ambassadors Criticize Governments Settlement Building

 Israeli ambassadors have dropped a bombshell on Israel's current election campaign. At a Foreign Ministry gathering of Israeli diplomats serving abroad, Israel's UN representative Ron Prosor appeared to take issue with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent decision to announce the building of 1300 new housing units in the area of E-1 near East Jerusalem on the West Bank. The Palestinians claim this construction would drive a wedge between a Palestinian state on the West Bank. Netanyahu said the announcement was in response to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's violation of the Oslo Accord in pushing for a Palestinian non-member observer state by the UN General Assembly on Nov.29th.

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December 23, 2012

Israel's Election Pyromania

 Are Israeli politicians from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on down now shooting from the hip in trying to attract voters in the January 22nd election? It appears so. Just listen to the rash of reckless rhetoric that is now being bandied about by some party leaders. Naftali Bennet, who heads the ultra Right-wing 'Jewish Home' party, has set fire to the campaign by stating "If I were an IDF soldier and was ordered to evacuate a Jewish settler from his home, I would first ask permission to be recused and if not, I would rather be sent to the military brig!" Analyst David Essing updates the election campaign that was kicked off by the ruling Likud-Beiteinu party this week.

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December 17, 2012

Palestinians & Israeli Elections

 What is the most dominant factor that determines the winner of an Israeli election campaign? Without fail it is how Israeli voters perceive Palestinian intentions and without fail the Palestinian leadership takes a hostile stance smack in the middle of the campaign. Analyst David Essing is of the view it is happening once again.

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December 12, 2012

TEDxJerusalem - A FIRST-HAND RECAP

 On December 10, 2012, Jerusalem proper hosted its first TED event, TEDxJerusalem, and IsraCast was there to give you a first account. There have been other official and unofficial TED events held in Israel, however, TEDxJerusalem brought its own special angle to what TED in the Holy Land has to contribute.

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December 08, 2012

George Orwell in Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation

 George Orwell can best cast light on the persistent claims of Hamas and by Israeli officials in the current confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians. Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniya claim an historic Palestinian victory over Israel in the recent eight day battle with Israel – nothing could be further from the truth. Hamas rocket teams and their weapons arsenals were clobbered in Gaza and they know it. On the other hand, after 138 nations in the UN General Assembly voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a non- member observer state, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu adopted the old Arab adage of 'cutting off your nose to spite your face' by announcing plans to build 3,000 housing units linking Jerusalem with the Israeli town of Maale Adumim in Judea & Samaria (West Bank). This construction plan was condemned instantly by nearly one and all including Israel's closest allies, even Canada. Yet Netanyahu and his Likud cabinet ministers stand by the settlement decision as a fitting response to the flagrant violation of the Oslo Accord by West Bank Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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December 03, 2012

Bibi Bungles Big Time!

 'Keep your eye on the ball!' This is one of Prime Minister Netanyahu's adages for smart politics. But Bibi has failed to follow his own advice in his ongoing confrontation, not only with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but also with the U.S. and nearly all the international community. Netanyahu's conduct of the Palestinian issue has been abysmal – so much so that although Abbas has refused to negotiate, it is Israel that is taking all the blame! This at a time that Israel is counting on vital international support for blocking Iran's nuclear weapons program that Netanyahu warned will soon come to a head. Analyst David Essing is of the view the current furor could affect the outcome of Israel's general election on January 22nd.

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December 01, 2012

Isracast Weekend Report

 It is a diplomatic debacle for Israel - that is an accurate description of the massive support by the UN General Assembly for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Back in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu downplayed the impact charging that nothing had changed on the ground - only direct negotiations with Israel could ever lead to a Palestinian state. Moreover, by taking a unilateral step to bypass talks with Israel, Abbas had violated the Oslo Accord and two could play that game. Israel would also react with its own one-sided measures. Later Israeli officials announced government approval for the construction of 3,000 new housing units that will link the West Bank settlement town of Maale Adumin with Jerusalem. There is no question that Israel will insist on the area remaining part of Israel in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

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November 27, 2012

Likud Swings Right –Livni Enters & Barak Exits

While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu portrayed the new Likud list as 'a strong young national team', Labor's Shelly Yachimovich has blasted it as 'an extreme Right wing party with no social agenda'.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak probably left political life after his successful contribution to the recent Gaza operation before his party's poor showing in upcoming election. But he has also left his options open for a possible Netanyahu offer to return as defense minister if he forms the next government.

Tzipi Livni has entered the campaign claiming only she can attract moderate Likud supporters who are turned off by the new Likud ticket.

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November 26, 2012

Israel & Gaza - 'Quiet for Quiet'

 After the intense eight-day conflict both sides claim victory with Israel pledging that 'quiet will be met with quiet'. However Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government have been facing criticism for 'not finishing the job' and ordering a ground operation into Gaza to stop the repeated rocketing of Israeli civilians. Not only the Israeli residents in the south who have been terrorized for years from Gaza but also many of the IDF reserve soldiers mobilized for a ground attack, blamed Netanyahu for not going all the way. However analyst David Essing is of the view that Netanyahu along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman succeeded in blending military force with diplomacy in furthering Israel's national interest at this time.   

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November 22, 2012

Statecraft of Obama, Netanyahu and Morsi

 As of 21:00 hours local time, the Palestinian rockets from Gaza ceased flying through the air bound for Israeli towns and villages while Israeli aircraft stopped raiding Hamas targets in Gaza. The latest round in the latest slugfest between Gaza and Israel was over. Egypt's President Muhamed Morsi, the surprising Muslim Brotherhood leader, is now charged with overseeing that both sides honor the new truce. The silent and final arbitrator in this unlikely scenario is U.S. President Barack Obama who has skillfully pulled his substantial levers with both sides, possibly for the benefit of one and all, including the Palestinians in Gaza. Analyst David Essing is of the view that the process of achieving the latest ceasefire could be of paramount importance.

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November 21, 2012

No Recycling of Hamas Ceasefires

 Isracast Assessment: Israel insisting the new ceasefire must include solid guarantees that will bar the renewal of Palestinian rocketing from Gaza for a long term. Will Hamas agree to such a demand that would pull the rug out from their vow to wipe Israel off the map? Analyst David Essing is of the view that behind the flurry of diplomatic activity to halt the violence, U.S. President Barack Obama and Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi have been cooperating on a deal to resolve the crisis and possibly restart negotiations between Israel & Palestinians. In return, the U.S. would again view Egypt as a close ally with all that entails. As President, will Morsi put Egypt's crucial economic interests before his role as leader of the radical Muslim Brotherhood and lean on Hamas to halt its rocketing of Israel? In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is weighing the pros and cons: whether the ceasefire deal offers a reasonable prospect of peace and quiet for Israeli residents in the south and the subsequent improvement in relations with Egypt and the U.S. or to launch an IDF ground operation into Gaza. He will hold off at least until U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joins the bevy of diplomats visiting the region. Meanwhile, while the diplomatic deliberations continue, both Israel and the Palestinians are continuing to slug it out with civilians on both sides caught in the middle. So far the IDF has hit over 1400 terror targets in Gaza while signaling that there must be quiet on both sides of the border.

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November 15, 2012

Gaza-Israel and the Bigger Middle East Picture

 Regional implications: First, Israel will not allow Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi to hold Israeli peace treaty as ransom for Gaza rocketing of Israel. Second, after rise of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas felt it could cross Israel's red line with impunity. Analyst David Essing is of the view that Israel will also react with the necessary force, if Iran crosses Israel's nuclear red line this spring.

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November 12, 2012

Israel on Verge of Major Ground Operation Into Gaza

 Within twenty-four hours over one hundred rockets and missiles launched from Gaza sent some one and a half million Israeli men, women and children racing for their bomb shelters. Only 'Color Red!', the wail of sirens, that give children and adults fifteen seconds warning to reach safety the 'Iron Dome' missile defense, have prevented many Israelis being killed. As it is, a number have been injured as the missiles landed as far away as the city of Beersheba. In some cases, parents caught in the open were seen huddling over their children to protect them with their own bodies. Life in southern has been paralyzed for days. Analyst David Essing is of the view that Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu was obviously speaking on instructions from the Prime Minister.

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November 10, 2012

Isracast Weekend Report: Now to Israel's Election Campaign!

 Will Barack Obama now retaliate against Israel for Bibi Netanyahu's betting on Mitt Romney? Netanyahu's rivals are attacking the Prime Minister for acting irresponsibly by showing his preference for the defeated Republican candidate. Although Netanyahu bet and he bet wrong, the issue is unlikely to be a game-changer in Israel's election campaign that has yet to move into top gear for January 22. First Likud and labor must hold their primaries for the party list of candidates and Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni must decide once and for all whether to throw their hats into the ring. Meanwhile Netanyahu is trying vigorously to repair some of his damaged bridges with Obama with statements like: "I will continue to work with President Obama to protect the security interests of Israeli citizens". And the PM stressed:"The strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S. is stronger than ever'. (In all fairness it should be said that the much maligned Defense Minister Ehud Barak deserves most of the credit for the 'unprecedented' military collaboration between the two countries. Netanyahu often dispatched Barak on special missions to Washington to smooth over the not infrequent tiffs with the White House and keep relations on the rails with the Pentagon. But the overbearing Barak is often his own worst enemy when it comes to Israeli politics and his Independence party might not win even one seat in the election).

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November 05, 2012

Kahlon's Cold Feet and Abbas's Hot Tip

 What is the impact of Likud Cabinet Minister's Moshe Kahlon's final decision not to form a new party to run against the Likud in the upcoming election? Kahlon's shooting star has now burned out and the campaign will now turn to whether former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will again throw his hat into the ring to lead a new Center bloc or whether he will succumb to his numerous legal problems. From another quarter, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also got into the action by trying to stir up interest in the moribund Palestinian issue. Analyst David Essing has this election update.

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