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So Much For Israel/Palestine Peace Talks?

The results of Tuesday’s election in Israel are still inconclusive. Even though the centrist Kadima Party, which looked slated to lose just weeks ago, eked out a surprising 29 seats, ahead of the right-wing Likud Party’s 28, the total number of seats held by right-wing parties appear to be sufficient to form a government. In order to forestall that, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni is holding talks with the ultra-right wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which demands loyalty oaths from Israel’s one million Arab citizens, about joining a Kadima-led coalition.

Whatever government emerges, the right-wing shift in Israeli politics has large implications for President Obama’s stated desire to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

From The Washington Post:

Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator, offered this succinct appraisal of the election result: “This is like hanging a ‘closed for the season’ sign on any peacemaking for the next year or so.”

Miller said even a broad unity government — one possible outcome — would be unable to agree on peace moves but could reach quick consensus on military strikes against Hamas or Hezbollah, such as the recent invasion of Gaza. “You may get a government good at war-making, not peacemaking,” he said. “It’s really going to create a major headache for the administration.”

I’ll have a Palestinian perspective on this later today. But here’s something to watch: assume that whatever government emerges has far-right elements that threaten to bolt whenever difficult peace-related measures are up for discussion, thereby threatening the viability of the governing coalition. Does that become an impetus for Obama and his envoy, George Mitchell, to do less, in order not to force a new election? Or does it lead them to press harder, in the hope that whatever emerges from a destabilized government will be more congenial to a peace process? And what will the next Israeli government fear more: collapsing or being considered an obstacle to peace by the Obama administration?

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