Israel election a loud call for peace talks

Kamloops Daily News
January 24, 2013 01:00 AM

For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the writing was on the wall months ago over the future of Palestinians.

Now, with a stunning Tuesday election that put his Likud party and hard-line allies in a tie with centre-left rivals - a not-so-subtle call by voters to restart peace negotiations - there's no way to ignore the big, bold words on the wall any longer. It's time to talk.

In November 2012, the United Nations voted overwhelmingly in favour of Palestinian statehood. And as of late, Barack Obama, president of a country that has traditionally been Israel's biggest backer, has shown displeasure with Netanyahu's policies toward the Palestinians.

Now, Israelis appear to be pushing for renewed peace efforts after voters gave moderate parties an equal voice in a possible coalition government. The message is even more clear when it's taken into account that voter turnout exceeded previous elections, with 67 per cent of Israel's 5.5 million eligible voters going to the polls.

It's been said that no one wants peace in the Middle East more than Israelis, and with serious conflict only a stone's throw away, the election results could be the push the government needs to get back to the table.

It has been four years since talks were frozen, largely in part because Israel rejected a Palestinian demand for a construction freeze in territories the nation took over in the Six-Day War in 1967.

With worldwide calls for peace, conditions are finally ripe for talks, and if Netanyahu wants to stay Israel's prime minister, he undoubtedly must acquiesce to not just outside pressure, but inside.

The second-largest party after Likud is expected to be a big player at the coalition table, but the leader of the There Is A Future Party, Yair Lapid, has said that he would not join Netanyahu's team unless the prime minister promises to make a serious push for peace with the Palestinians.

With the right and left deadlocked, the negotiating process to form a coalition government is likely to be painstaking and compromising - conditions that will well-prepare Netanyahu, or possibly another leader, for talks with the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the world continues to wait and hope.


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