New Israeli government set to take office
Jerusalem: The new Israeli coalition packed with hardliners is to be sworn-in on Monday just two days before a visit by US President Barack Obama, with faint hopes of any revival of the stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
Scepticism regarding chances of an end to the deadlock further deepened today when former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who is expected to make a comeback to the ministry once absolved of graft charges against him, made it clear that it was not the new government's priority.
Speaking at a press conference to mark the swearing-in of the new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Liberman stressed that "the Palestinian issue has not progressed in the past four years, and it will not progress in the next four years either."
Asked what would constitute a successful Obama visit in his eyes, the Yisrael Beytenu party chairman said that the fact that the US President chose to visit Israel in the first trip of his second term was a victory in itself.
Israel would "emphatically oppose any attempt to reimpose a [settlement construction] freeze," he emphasised making clear that there will be no change in the position of the new government vis-à-vis the thorny issue which the Palestinians have made a pre-condition for revival of peace talks.
Israel's hawkish 63-year-old Prime Minister Netanyahu finally managed to cobble together a coalition government after forty days of gruelling negotiations during which his Likud party's weakened position saw him making several compromises with the potential partners.
With no dearth of hawks in his own party's slate, the inclusion of 12 Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) Parliament members has virtually sealed the possibility of any movement in talks with the Palestinians.