Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu may still be in office, but there is no question his right-wing bloc took a hammering in the parliamentary elections. Netanyahu and his conservative Likud Party just barely pulled away with a victory despite news media analysis that his party would win by a landslide.
The Likud Party just barely snagged 31 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Yesh Atid made away with 19 seats, far more than what was predicted. Labor, the dominant party of the left, came in third with 15 seats.
The results clearly demonstrate the polarization among Israeli voters and present an opportunity for the centrist Yesh Atid party to break into the political landscape that has been dominated by Netanyahu’s right-wing faction.
Yesh Atid is led by Yair Lapid, a man who is no stranger to the camera. He is an ex-journalist, published author of seven books, talk show host and even had a brief stint as an amateur boxer. Unlike Netanyahu who emphasized on national security and the threat of Iran, Lapid’s priority was on issues that had a more direct effect on the people. This included issues regarding the rising cost of living, education reform and ending military service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The election campaign focused primarily on the economy and social issues with very little discussion about Iran and foreign affairs. There have also been discussions regarding the occupation of the West Bank, which Netanyahu has been criticized for after ordering the construction of an additional 4,500 settler homes. The election results also mean that Netanyahu may have to compromise when it comes to Palestinian’s demand for statehood. The Yesh Atid party is in favor of a return to negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the West Bank.
The new parliament is now virtually evenly split, which means there will certainly be heated discussions over issues like Iran and Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu pledged that authorities will erect a fence along the Israel-Syria border amid concerns that radical Islamist members have infested the area.
So far, Israel has stayed out of the Syrian conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives, most of them civilian. However, there is rising concern that the continued violence and fighting could soon spill over to Israel.
Among the worries, Netanyahu expressed concerns that Syrian President Bashir Assad may try to lure Israel into the battle as a final act of desperation. Even more troubling is a possible scenario in which Assad is overthrown with Syria being overtaken by Islamist extremists who will ultimately locate and gain access to the county’s cache of chemical arsenal.
Netanyahu’s address came just as Assad made an international plea for reconciliation and condemned the Western nations for providing aid to the rebels, adding that most of them had direct ties to al-Qaida.
At a Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu emphasized a need for a fence along the borders that it shared with Syria. Such a barrier already exists along the border that the country shares with Egypt, which is in place to curb the flow of migrants. The new fence, still in its planning phase, will provide a barrier to prevent access from jihad forces, which have overtook areas once occupied by the Syrian army.
Since the uprising in Syria began in March of 2011, mortar rounds have occasionally landed on Israel’s side of the territory. While the stray fire is believed to be accidental, Israel nevertheless fired retaliatory shots as a stern warning.
So far, no estimates have been given about how long such a project would take to complete. Even the barrier built along the Israel-Egypt border is not yet complete as the border stretches for 125 miles.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu made a public appearance on U.S. television and warned that Iran is only about half a year away from reaching 90 percent of what is needed in order to complete a nuclear warhead.
Netanyahu has been under sharp criticism all week both at home and abroad for his efforts to get the Obama administration to take a more aggressive stance against Iran. On American airwaves, he stressed that Obama needs to clearly lay out a “red line” that Iran must not cross in its nuclear enrichment activities, and that crossing those lines could result in military force.
Using an American football analogy, the prime minister said that Iran is only 20 yards away from reaching nuclear capability and that we must not let it cross the touchdown line because that would jeopardize the security of the world.
Iran continues to claim that its nuclear ambitions are only for peaceful purposes and warned that any form of military aggression will be met with swift retaliation. General Mohammed Ali Jafari, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran, said in a conference that “nothing will remain” of Israel if it proceeds with an attack on its nation.
Netanyahu also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and suggested that there is a correlation between Iran and the wave of violence spreading in the Middle East over an American-made Youtube video that insults the prophet Mohammed.
In a phone conversation between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama reportedly refused to set conditions for Iran. Netanyahu’s patience with the Obama administration is growing thin, and he continues to demand that the U.S. sets a clear red line that Iran must not cross without facing consequences.
A spokesperson for the White House, however, has insisted that the administration will do whatever is necessary to stop Iran from acquiring an atomic weapon.
A mall in Jerusalem was crowded with shoppers over the weekend. However, the patrons were not there to shop for the latest brand of clothes. They were there to purchase gas masks and other survival gear as they embrace for a possible chemical strike by Iran.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has publicly announced that a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is imminent. There are talks that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are contemplating a strike within the next six months and possibly before the U.S. presidential election in November.
In light of the announcements, media sources have critically slammed the Prime Minister for being overly hawkish. Opinion pieces and Media analysts from Israel, U.S., and Europe have openly expressed their dismay at Netanyahu’s apparent eagerness to resort to military force. His critics have harshly condemned him as a war monger.
However, Netanyahu has openly praised two journalists who came to his defense. The journalists were Professor Eyal Winter of Israel and Colbert King of the U.S. who writes for Washington Post. Both writers received a personal phone call from the Prime Minister who thanked them for their support in Israel’s right to defend itself against a nation that has fervently vowed to wipe Israel off the map. Netanyahu has also invited Winter to his office and has plans of making the same arrangement for King in September.
Both the U.S. and Europe have urged the Prime Minister to exercise a little more patience to give negotiations and diplomacy a chance. Netanyahu, however, balks at the idea of further talks and says that doing so will only give Iran more time to build up its nukes. Netanyahu has also announced Avraham Dichter as the new civil Defense Minister. Dichter could play a pivotal role in deciding whether Israel proceeds with its plans of a military strike.