Layelle Saad
Gulf News
March 30, 2009 - 12:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu will present his right wing government tonight to the Israeli Knesset sparking international worries over the possibility of a future peace process.

With over 30 ministerial positions, Netanyahu's shaky coalition government between the right-wing Likud party and the Centre-Left Labour Party will be among the largest cabinets in Israeli history.

Netanyahu will preside over a 69-seat coalition in the 120-member parliament that will lean heavily to the right and will have firebrand Avigdor Lieberman, branded by critics as a "racist" for anti-Arab diatribes, as foreign minister.

It includes his right-wing Likud party with 27 seats, ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu with 15 seats, centre-left Labour with 13 seats, ultra-Orthodox Shas with 11 seats and the far-right Jewish Home coloniser party with three seats.

The coalition will be plagued with conflict as it remains deeply divided over foreign and domestic policy. It's clear that an introduction of any peace process will further destabilise this coalition government. Therefore the issue will be deferred as much as possible by Netanyahu's government.

"Netanyahu's government will likely seek to avoid a public confrontation with the United States and therefore not publicly repudiate any peace process," Nathan Brown of the Washington DC-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Gulf News.

"Instead, they will seek to deflect diplomacy rather than pursue it enthusiastically," he added.

As for dealing with a national unity government including a component of Hamas, Israel is unlikely to engage it seriously, even if the US softens its approach on the Islamic group.

The best situation Hamas could hope for would be temporary deals such as ceasefires and prisoner swaps, Brown said.

Already Arabs have expressed pessimism over any peace process under Netanyahu because of his track record of colonies' expansion and stark opposition to the peace process.

But it seems that the Right Wing government will not have the free-range as initially expected. The Labour party has agreed to join the government under the condition that previous peace agreements be recognised and upheld.

Israeli leaders have expressed concern over what seems to be their growing international isolation after the War on Gaza and the poll outcome.

Israeli President Shimon Peres has approved a media campaign aimed at combating Israel's pariah image. Last week, the European Union warned Israel of "consequences" if the new government did not commit itself to the principle of the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

Brown, who was involved in an international effort to draft the Palestinian Constitution, told Gulf News in an earlier interview that the two state-solution was dead with no hope for revival.

"While the Obama administration is seriously committed to diplomacy in support of a two-state solution, that in itself is not enough to revive the peace-process," Brown said pointing to the divided Palestinian leadership and right-wing Israeli government keen on expanding colonies.

"The Obama administration will be more willing to take on the issue of colony expansion, but it remains unclear whether they will have success," Brown said on Monday.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017