US President Barack Obama may pressure Kadima prime ministerial candidate Tzipi Livni to enter into a coalition with Likud's Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu if Netanyahu is asked to head the government.
Obama's only hope of forcing Israel back to the negotiating table with the Palestinian Authority is through a 'national unity government' comprising Likud and Kadima, according to a report in Britain's The Daily Telegraph. According to sources in Washington, Obama is ready to manipulate Israeli politics behind the scenes in order to make that happen, as Israeli president Shimon Peres determines who he will ask to head up Israel's next government.
Yet involving himself in the Israeli democratic process may have the opposite effect for Obama. "It would be political suicide for him," said David Bedein, Bureau Chief of the Israel Resource News Agency.
According to Bedein, it is likely that the rumor of Obama's imminent meddling is false, a story planted in order to destabilize Netanyahu and make it less possible for him to take power. "There are a number of unsubstantiated [Israeli political] stories lately," said Bedein. "I think the story has been leaked to the press by someone high up, maybe [President] Shimon Peres." Peres himself is a member of Likud's rival party, Kadima.
Kadima, which was spawned by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after he bucked his own Likud party to unilaterally expel the Jews of Gush Katif from Gaza in 2005, won more seats than the right-of-center Likud party in the recent elections. However, the combination of chosen candidates from purported nationalist parties is higher, making it likely that Peres will ask Netanyahu, the leader of the highest ranking nationalist party, to form the government.
According to The Telegraph, Washington sources say Obama will secretly force the rival factions together for the sake of his Middle East peace vision. Yet in a twist on the pressure scenario, it may be that Netanyahu will ask Obama to compel Livni into his government in a bid to avoid a coalition comprised of stalwart nationalist parties.
Publicly, Obama has said he will work with whatever coalition Israel's politicians put together.
In exchange for Obama's cooperation in coercing Livni, the US would gain leverage to implement its Middle East peace initiatives with less Israeli hindrance, says The Telegraph.
Tzipi Livni, who serves as foreign minister, has said she will not join a Likud-led government.
Livni is under pressure to avoid a coalition by some in her party who want to wait for Netanyahu to fail at forming a government, thereby paving the way for Kadima to be asked to head the nation. Others in her party have simply refused to join forces with the Likud, sentiments which threaten to create a schism in Kadima. Yet others say Livni should join forces with Netanyahu, but as the head of the coalition.
"I have no idea if [the rumor that Netanyahu is involving Obama] is true," said head of the 'Jewish Leadership' faction of the Likud party, Mose Feiglin. "But if it is true, it is terrible, and reminds us all how the destruction of the Second Temple started. It began when Jews invited Romans in to solve internal Jewish conflicts and make decisions."