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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 23:48 | SYDNEY
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Israel: Elections, horse trading and peace negotiations

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12 February 2009 07:57

The Israeli elections failed to produce a clear winner, even though Tzipi Livni's Kadima party unexpectedly pipped Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud at the post to become the largest party. Given Israel's electoral system though, the election itself is largely the beginning of the process of forming a government. Although Kadima is nominally the largest party, President Shimon Peres will ask either Netanyahu or Livni to form government based on who he believes is most able to formulate a working coalition in parliament.
 
The strong showing by the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party under Avigdor Lieberman, eclipsing the formerly powerful Labour Party to become the third force in Israeli politics, shows a shift to the right by the Israeli electorate and strengthens Netanyahu's claims that a right-of-centre coalition government under him is the most logical choice. Still, the backroom negotiations will be underway in earnest as both Kadima and Likud vie to form a coalition with other parties under their respective leaderships, or even a grand coalition (the ubiquitous 'national unity government' model).
 
Washington will be particularly interested in the outcome, given President Obama's new impetus for reinvigorating the Middle East peace process. A government of the right will present it with some significant challenges. Binyamin Netanyahu has advocated allowing existing settlements to expand, which is opposed by Washington's lead negotiator George Mitchell, while Avigdor Lieberman's views on a negotiating position for the two-state solution is a bit vague, if this interview is anything to go by. 

Still, Mitchell is nothing if not committed, and indicated during his pre-election visit that he would return shortly after the election to renew talks. But given the results of this election, it may be some time yet before Mitchell has an Israeli government he can talk to.

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