Republican election gains likely to embolden Israeli PM

A weakening of US President Barack Obama`s Democrats in this week`s Congressional elections would make Israel more resistant to demands for a new freeze on Jewish settlement, analysts say.

Jerusalem: A weakening of US President Barack
Obama`s Democrats in this week`s Congressional elections would
make Israel more resistant to demands for a new freeze on
Jewish settlement, analysts say.

With peace talks on hold over a dispute about
settlements, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is relying on
Washington to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu into halting construction in the occupied West Bank
before he will return to the table.

Netanyahu said today that he would fly to the United
States on November 7 to address an assembly of Jewish groups
and would meet Vice President Joe Biden for talks on "renewal
of the peace process with the aim of reaching an agreement on
peace with security for the state of Israel."

He will not meet Obama, who will be travelling in Asia at
the time.

The outcome of Tuesday`s midterm vote, which is expected
to see the Democrats emerge weakened, is seen as likely to
harden Israel`s negotiating position.

"Netanyahu would assess that a more Republican, or less
Democratic Congress, might mean more unquestioning friends of
Israel who are not likely to put heavy pressure, and are more
likely to give knee-jerk support on all kinds of other
issues," strategic analyst Yossi Alpher said to a news agency.

A weakening of the Democrats could encourage Netanyahu to
dig in his heels, he said.

"Republican achievement ... might therefore somehow
improve Netanyahu`s negotiating flexibility, so he would be
stalling until then," he said. "The closer you get to
elections, the more that makes sense."

In an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post this week, US political
gurus Stanley B Greenberg and James Carville wrote that one of
their recent surveys showed Republicans to be no more popular
than Democrats at the moment.

Nevertheless, the pair, who coached Bill Clinton,
Britain`s Tony Blair and Israel`s Ehud Barak in successful
election campaigns, said: "It is hard to imagine that November
2 will be a good day for Democrats."

Jonathan Spyer, research fellow in international
relations at the Interdisciplinary Centre near Tel Aviv, said
Netanyahu and Abbas would each be waiting for the US election
result, before showing his next hand.

Palestine Liberation Organisation official Hanan Ashrawi
said Obama had already been so soft on Israel that it was hard
to see elections making a substantial difference.

PTI

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