You may view the 5 minute update this week via audio:
In this week’s 5 minute update, we focused on:
1) The efforts of Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to expand his coalition government and its relationship to the Israeli / Palestinian peace process
In early May, Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, confessed that he has been conducting secret talks to bring the primary opposition party, the Zionist Union, into his coalition government. In doing so, opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, said that in the past year, he has received frequent requests to join Netanyahu’s government. Regarding them, he said: “To all of them I answered: sitting in the government without holding the steering wheel – that doesn’t interest me. I am not a decoration.” In other words, talk of a breakthrough is highly premature. Herzog added: “Until this very moment no appropriate proposal has been placed before us. If there is an appropriate offer we will consider it seriously. Everyone loves the idea of ‘unity.’ But what counts” are the principles which bind the parties together, he asserted.
In stating his conditions for joining the government, Herzog said that he will consider joining Netanyahu’s coalition only if he is given a mandate to pursue a Palestinian state and a two-state solution saying, “If I receive the mandate to stop the next funeral procession and curb the dangers of an international boycott, to return the United States and Europe into being allies, to open negotiations with neighboring states and to separate from the Palestinians in two states in order to halt the constant terrorism – then I will know that my hands are holding the steering wheel,” he said.
However, most of the members of Herzog’s political party, have said they oppose joining the Netayahu government based upon the present situation. Former opposition leader, Shelly Yacimovich and former chief negotiator in the peace process and leader of the Hatnua political party, Tzipi Livni both said they wouldn’t join the government with him, with Livni vowing to pull her political party, Hatnuah, who joined the former Labor party to form the current, Zionist Union party in last elections out of Zionist Union if Herzog brought members of the former Labor party into Netanyahu’s coalition.
Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party and number two on the Zionist Union party list led by Isaac Herzog, strongly opposes joining Netanyahu’s government saying: “Our mission is to be in the opposition. I would not do a thing to strengthen Netanyahu, his way [of doing things], or his coalition. Netanyahu’s policies are bad for Israel … He bases his world view — and has reinforced it in the public — on the idea that the whole world is against us [Israel], that we are a nation that walks alone.”
Former opposition leader of the Labor party, Shelly Yachimovich, announced she would oppose the move saying: “Netanyahu called, and Herzog came running on all fours with a bone in his mouth. Entry into the coalition now, under these conditions, would be nothing less than a treacherous act – treacherous to the voters who chose us over the Likud, when we said ‘It’s us or them,’ and against our values, which we believe can bring about true change in Israel. I will not sell out my values for government cabinet positions,” she said. “Bad things will happen if Herzog tries to impose this on us. Of course I want to be a senior minister, and I will be a very good one, but not at any price. This offer should have been rejected outright a long time ago,” she said. “I’ve expressed my position in no uncertain terms in internal conversations, and I want to prevent this mistake from taking place. We are not talking about a unity government. This is a right-wing government that Labor is willing to crawl into just to get portfolios and status. A great big nothing is being devised simply to avoid upsetting the most right-wing party in the coalition, Jewish Home.”
Another former leader of the Labor party who is a present member of the Zionist Union, Knesset member, Amir Peretz strongly opposed the idea of joining Netanyahu’s coalition government. He said: “What has this government done?” he continued. “It’s absolutely clear that [Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu will not change his career and become a man of peace who is willing to pay the price of peace – not only to make statements on behalf of peace.”
If the Zionist Union political party would join Netanyahu’s coalition government, the Labor Party faction within Zionist Union would have three main objectives for joining the coalition; the first two are taking over the talks with the Palestinians and removing the political party, Jewish Home, from Netanyahu’s government. Jewish Home opposes a Palestinian state. One Labor party official said, “Herzog seeks a wide toolbox for the diplomatic talks … [but] Netanyahu isn’t even willing to declare a construction freeze in the settlements.” Another Labor party official said Netanyahu isn’t willing to remove the political party, Jewish Home, from his existing government coalition because “he doesn’t want to get in trouble with right-wing voters and doesn’t want the leader of the Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, to be to his right in the opposition.”
In reaction to the possibility of Zionist Union political party leader, Isaac Herzog, joining Netanyahu’s coalition government, Zionist Union party members said that Herzog does not have a mandate from party members to join Netanyahu’s government. Zionist Union Knesset member, Yoel Hasson said, “I and the members of the party have no intention to take part in such a move. We must prepare properly for the upcoming session and ensure that we continue to propose a better alternative to the public, an alternative of real security, a fair economy and mending the rifts in society,” he added. Zionist Union Knesset member, Erel Margalit, sent a letter to Netanyahu saying, “I will not join your extremist government. That will hold true whatever the decision of the members of my party.” Zionist Union Knesset member, Stav Shaffir, blasted the idea of her party entering Netanyahu’s government saying that doing so would be a “betrayal” to voters of the Labor party. She said, “We have been promising for a whole year that it’s either us or him. At no stage did we say ‘it’s us and also him.’ The very discussion about crawling into the government is embarrassing me.”
As a result, many believe that if Zionist Union leader, Isaac Herzog, did decide to join Netanyahu’s coalition government, it would split his party.
While Netanyahu was in discussion with Zionist Union leader, Isaac Herzog, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised Israel a warmer diplomatic relationship if it accepts efforts to resume peace talks with the Palestinians through the initiative led by the French government. He said: “I say we will achieve a warmer peace if we resolve the issue of our Palestinian brothers… and give hope to the Palestinians of the establishment of a state. I ask that the Israeli leadership allow this speech to be broadcast in Israel one or two times as this is a genuine opportunity… We are willing to make all efforts to help find a solution to this problem.”
Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, responded positively to the Egyptian President’s comments saying, “Israel is willing to participate alongside Egypt and the other Arab states in advancing the diplomatic process and stability in the region.” while saying that Sisi’s words were “encouraging.” In addition, Netanyahu said that he embraced the “general idea” of the 2002 Arab / Saudi peace initiative.
The Arab Peace Initiative, originally proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, has many problematic aspects to it, the prime minister said, such as its call for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. “There are positive aspects and negative aspects to it. Israel is willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region since 2002, but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples. Therefore, the general idea — to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”
In the framework proposed by the initiative, all Arab and Islamic states would establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel after the successful conclusion of the peace process with the Palestinians. The Israeli government has never fully endorsed the plan.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunni Muslim countries are ready to normalize ties with Israel should Israel negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. “Provided the Israeli government is ready to commit to a discussion around the 2002 Arab peace initiative … it would be possible to have some steps of normalization along the way to give confidence to this process,” Blair said. “With the new leadership in the region today that is possible. A lot will depend on the response of the Israeli government to Egyptian President Sissi’s initiative and to the Arab Peace Initiative and to whatever steps the Israelis are ready to take to make it a reality.”
A clause in the scrapped coalition agreement between Netanyahu and the Zionist Union opposition party reportedly stated that the government would “relate positively” to the idea of a regional reconciliation agreement between Israel and several Arab states, as well as to certain elements of the Arab Peace Initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Blair’s comments are significant. A list of international figures led by Tony Blair were behind a failed move designed to legitimize the addition of the Zionist Union to the Israeli ruling coalition, a move practically unprecedented in terms of massive international intervention in Israeli politics. Two sources in the Israeli political system say that Blair, the former British prime minister and representative of the Quartet, while coordinating and updating opposition leader Isaac Herzog, is the one who pushed and encouraged Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi’s speech in which he called on Israeli political parties to agree on the need to advance the framework for peace with the Palestinians.
Until last year, Blair served as an envoy for the Quartet, an alliance of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia that seeks Israeli-Palestinian peace. Although Blair is no longer the Quartet representative to the peace process, Blair continued to act independently to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the Arab world. Recently, Blair visited Israel and other countries in the region every two or three weeks, almost always meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Herzog, updating them on his talks with Arab leaders.
His consistent message in these meetings was that Sunni Arab nations are willing and prepared for a breakthrough in relations with Israel, but it depended on steps Israel took in the West Bank and Gaza to demonstrate advancement of the two-state solution.
Political sources involved in the matter said that in recent weeks, against the backdrop of Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s agreement on passing a two-year budget (instead of one year at a time), Blair realized that the Israeli government would stand firm until 2019. Blair thought the only way to advance a diplomatic move between Israel and the Palestinians, with the involvement of Arab nations, would be to bring the Zionist Union into the coalition.
A few weeks ago, while there was contact between Herzog and Netanyahu, Blair began holding talks with the two, trying to forge a common agenda to advance a regional diplomatic move after the Zionist Union joined the government. Herzog spoke of a “rare regional opportunity” to advance the peace process.
Recently, while visiting Egypt, Blair worked on recruiting senior Egyptian figures to the plan. One political source says Blair is the one who suggested that Sissi make a speech with a message to the Israeli people and their political parties about the need to move forward in the peace process with the Palestinians. According to the source, Blair’s activity vis-à-vis the Egyptian presidential office was fully coordinated with Herzog.
Blair also coordinated with Kerry, informing him of the talks with Herzog and Netanyahu. A political source tells that subsequent to Blair’s actions, Kerry considered putting off publishing the Quartet’s report until he knew whether the Zionist Union would join the coalition. U.S. officials, however, denied this claim. When released, the report is expected to level biting criticism on settlement construction.
After visiting Egypt, Blair came to Israel and met with Netanyahu and Herzog again, also working on helping Herzog garner support inside the Zionist Union for joining the government. Blair tried to schedule a meeting with Zionist Union chairwoman Tzipi Livni, but her office said she was in mourning for her brother. Blair insisted and did meet Livni in the early hours of the morning at her Tel Aviv home, presenting the move he was trying to put together.
Initially, all was going according to Blair’s plan. Sissi gave the speech with the messages Blair had coordinated with Egypt. Herzog hastened to announce that he applauded the speech and said that Israel should not miss the diplomatic opportunity. A few minutes later, Netanyahu also made an announcement welcoming Sissi’s remarks and saying he was willing to cooperate with a diplomatic move led by Egypt. But in the following hours, talks between Netanyahu and Herzog started to fall apart and finally collapsed just after midnight.
Herzog claims the talks failed because Netanyahu refused to provide written versions of the understandings they had reached over settlement construction and negotiations with the Palestinians, the two elements that were supposed to enable the regional move with the Arab nations. Likud sources say Netanyahu realized that Herzog did not have the backing of a majority of his Knesset faction for joining the coalition and didn’t want to take the risk of making such far-reaching diplomatic undertakings.
“Neither Blair, Sissi nor Herzog could understand how Netanyahu wound up going with Lieberman,” said a political source. “Blair thought he could engineer the Netanyahu government and Herzog counted on the international embrace that Blair arranged for getting him into the government. It didn’t work.”
Once talks with the Zionist Union to join the government failed, Netanyahu decided to reach out to the political party, Yisrael Beytenu, (Israel Our Home) headed by Avigdor Liberman to “break away from the opposition.” The effort became necessary because talks with the Zionist Union on forming a unity government stalled due to significant gaps between them. One Likud official explained why Netanyahu wanted for Liberman’s party, Israel Our Home, to join the government saying, “The need to even approach Zionist Union stems from the fact that [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Lieberman took right-wing votes in the last Israeli election which were meant to facilitate a right-wing government and instead he initially failed to join the government after the elections and then joined the opposition parties to the current government coalition.”
As a result, Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Our Home) decided to join the Netanyahu government with the leader of its party, Avigdor Liberman, becoming Israel’s new Defense Minister. In response, the United States reacted by saying that Israel’s new right-wing government coalition raises, “legitimate questions” about the direction of Israeli policy toward the Israeli / Palestinian peace process but that the United States will ultimately judge the new government based on its actions. US State Department spokesman, Mark Toner said: “We have also seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history and we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in … and what kind of policies it may adopt.”
What do these things mean? According to a senior political source in Israel, in the remaining months of 2016, Israel could be facing a “diplomatic hurricane” from the United States and the international community. Top Israeli officials are concerned that the recent French peace initiative is a political maneuver that is meant to fail so that the Americans and Europeans can tell themselves, the public and Israel “we tried everything.” Netanyahu’s strategy, which Liberman joining his government has also adopted, is to create a diplomatic ”preventive strike” that will get US President Barack Obama and the Europeans off of Israel’s neck for the next critical five months before the US elections.
Israel is now waiting for the Quartet report (the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia) on the situation in the Middle East that is supposed to be published at the end of June. Under regular circumstances, the report would be received with a shrug and several warning lectures. But these days, its potential is much more deadly. Israel is investing tremendous efforts to weaken the report and cut out its harsh expressions and severe criticisms. Several versions and drafts of the report are circulating between the relevant capital cities (including the United States). One way or the other, the report will ultimately be published and will contain harsh criticism against both the Israeli and Palestinian sides with Israel receiving the most blame for the failed peace process.
But it’s not the Quartet report that most worries Netanyahu and Liberman. Their eyes are on the UN Security Council. Their nightmare scenario is failure of the French peace initiative, a harsh Quartet report and an American-European decision to launch a Security Council resolution that would not be prevented by an American veto. Netanyahu is well aware that such a resolution would constitute a dangerous precedent and could create a snowball effect. That, in turn, could transform Israel, within a relatively small amount of time, into a pariah state, hit by international economic sanctions if it does not act positively toward the possible UN Security Council Resolution.
However, even before this happens, the Israeli government is concerned about new United States initiatives on the peace process including a speech from US President Barack Obama outlining new parameters for the peace process and then bringing up these parameters for a vote in the UN Security Council as a binding resolution which Israel must eventually implement.
Because the international community tried to persuade Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to have the main opposition party, Zionist Union, who supports peace talks and a Palestinian state join his government through the efforts of former Quartet representative of the peace process, Tony Blair, and failed to do so and instead Netanyahu brought a right wing party into his government, will the US and Europe view this as a “betrayal” by Netanyahu of the peace process and therefore try to impose a peace agreement upon Israel through the United Nations Security Council by supporting a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital with the support of US President Barack Obama before he leaves office in January, 2017 ? Only time will tell.
An agreement to divide Jerusalem and establish a PLO state is a tribulation event.
The link to these articles are as follows:
1) Herzog outlines his conditions for entering ‘unity government’
2) Herzog: Will Consider Joining Netanyahu’s Coalition Only if Given Mandate to Pursue Two-state Solution
3) Herzog Reportedly Eager to Join Netanyahu’s Government, but Livni Dead Set Against
4) Netanyahu Emasculates Opposition Leader by Confirming Unity Talks
5) MKs to Herzog: We won’t join the coalition, even if you do
6) ‘Likud-Labor talks plagued by considerable differences’
7) MK: Strong Opposition better for the public than unity gov’t
8) Source: Likud to reach out to Liberman to join government
9) Sources: Herzog in Gov’t Means Split in Labor
10) How Tony Blair and Egypt’s Sissi Tried to Push Zionist Union Into Netanyahu’s Coalition
11) Egypt’s Sisi lends backing to Israel-Palestinian peace efforts
12) Lieberman to join government, become defense minister
13) US says Israel’s rightist coalition ‘raises legitimate questions’
14) Netanyahu’s diplomatic nightmare
15) Netanyahu backs ‘general idea’ behind Arab Peace Initiative
16) Blair talks up prospects of Israel-Sunni normalization
17) Following Herzog, Livni vows not to join coalition
From a Biblical prophetic perspective, the reason why the God of Israel would allow these events to happen is because it will result in the end of the exile of the house of Jacob and the reunification of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ephraim and Judah).
We will to be “watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem” and we will not rest until the God of Israel makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62).
Shalom in Yeshua the Messiah,
Hebraic Heritage Ministries Int’l