Sunday, October 26, 2008

Livni Fails to Build Coalition

Tzipi Livni, leader of Israel's Kadima Party and recently positioned to become the country's second ever female prime minister, announced her failure to form a coalition government tonight. This means that early parliamentary elections are likely for February 2009. The vote has tremendous implications for the future of Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians.

If President Shimon Peres opts for an election, then Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu has a good chance of becoming the next prime minister according to Israeli polls. This result would take the post-Annapolis Conference peace process in a much different direction or even end it altogether. Unlike Kadima, the Likud Party is resistant to handing over the West Bank to Palestinian control under current conditions and it strongly opposes the creation of any Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In giving up on a coalition, the former Mossad agent is hopeful that she will be victorious in the probable elections. A lot could happen until that time; February is still over 3 months away. However, it might be difficult for Livni to overcome the disastrous reputation of Ehud Olmert, her Kadima predecessor, who badly mishandled a 2006 war with Hezbollah and had to resign last month in the face of a corruption scandal.

Livni's coalition broke down when the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party walked away from negotiations over the weekend. The move left her alliance with the Labor Party short of a majority in the 120 seat Israeli Knesset. Kadima holds 29 seats in the seventeenth Knesset, Labor has 19, and Shas and Likud each have 12.

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