Washington, December 2 – In response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to fire Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as call for new elections, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Middle East Security Program Director Ilan Goldenberg has written a new Press Note. Before coming to CNAS in November, Mr. Goldenberg served as Chief of Staff to the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations at the U.S. Department of State.
The Press Note is below:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision today to fire Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni – the two most moderate members of his coalition – was a long time coming. For the past two years this coalition has been consistently in crisis and essentially unmanageable. The only reason it did not collapse earlier was because none of the members were eager to go to new elections. However, Netanyahu has finally calculated that with Lapid and Livni’s numbers down and no unified opposition to challenge him, he can take the chance of new elections, try to capture a greater majority, and preside over a more governable right wing coalition.
His calculations may be right, but it is also clear from polling that while Israelis do not see a credible alternative to Netanyahu, his approval ratings are sagging and there is a sense of fatigue and desire for new blood. Israeli elections are always full of surprises and now that the die has been cast no one can accurately predict the outcome.
This election could also be a real challenge for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Netanyahu’s opponents will attack him for mismanaging Israel’s most important strategic alliance. Meanwhile, those to the right of Netanyahu may choose to pick public fights with the Obama administration as a way of scoring political points at home.
For both Netanyahu and Obama, the wisest course is to ensure that the U.S.-Israel relationship does not become a political football in this Israeli election season. That would be a bad outcome for the relationship, which is ultimately more important than domestic politics.
Mr. Goldenberg is available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202-457-9409.