Geopoliticalmonitor.com

FORECAST

Both of Israel’s last two senior coalition partners, Kadima, under Tipzi Livni, and Labor, under Ehud Barak, have rejected Likud’s offer to join it in a unity government.  With Hamas on the rise in Palestine and Yisrael Beiteinu in Israel, it appears that any near term prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians are dead.

Last week, Israeli President and Kadima Party member Shimon Peres asked Likud leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to form the next Israeli government despite the fact that Kadima had won more seats in Israel’s general election.  However, centrist Kadima had only won one more seat than rightist Likud, and since the election returns indicated a slight majority for rightist parties, Likud received the official nod.  Besides, since the last government collapsed due to Kadima’s inability to keep its coalition together, there was even less reason to believe a Kadima-led coalition would remain intact now.

Likud’s overtures towards Kadima and Labor came as a surprise since the parties have an acrimonious relationship and observers felt that Likud’s more natural ally was the surprising third-place finisher, Yisrael Beiteinu, under Avigdor Lieberrman.  However, Lieberman’s extremist views, particularly those involving the stripping of citizenship and deportation of Israel’s Arab population, make a political alliance with him risky – further so because as Israel’s third largest party, Lieberman would have an automatic veto on Likud’s government, allowing him to pull the plug on the coalition at any moment should his demands be denied.

Nonetheless, if Netanyahu cannot convince Kadima or Labor to join Likud, Netanyahu will have little choice but to ally with the extremist Lieberman.  Thus, Israel may end up being led by a coalition government in which the senior coalition partner officially refuses to accept the two-state solution and the junior coalition partner prefers to ethnically cleanse Israel of its Arab population.

Therefore, if Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu form a coalition, Israel’s newest government will be diametrically opposed to the official position of the Obama administration, and without U.S. support in a world growing increasingly hostile to Israeli policies after the destructive Gaza campaign, Israel may find itself isolated and alone.

Knowing this, Likud’s rivals, Kadima and Labor, are driving a hard bargain for their support.  Kadima’s Livni has publicly stated that she will only accept a coalition with Likud if Netanyahu personally accepts a “rotating” prime ministership – an obvious non-starter.  Also, if Likud cannot form a coalition in the next six weeks, President Shimon Peres will ask Kadima to form one.  In the meantime, Kadima’s outgoing Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, remains in a caretaker role as the still ‘official’ Prime Minister.

Finally, should all else fail, Kadima may be relying on another election, hoping that Israelis will be so shocked to discover the power of the extremist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, that voters from both Labor and Likud will flock to Kadima in a strategic move to block Lieberman’s party from the governing coalition.

With Hamas on the rise beyond Gaza and through all of Palestine and Yisrael Beiteinu in Israel, it appears that any near term prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians are dead.

Ironically, the Obama administration’s first envoys just started arriving in the region.

 

SUMMARY OF EVENTS: February 16 – 23, 2009

NORTH AMERICA

United States

Stopping what it called a “massive ongoing fraud,” the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday accused Robert Allen Stanford, the chief of the Stanford Financial Group, of fraud in the sale of about $8 billion of high-yielding certificates of deposit held in the firm’s bank in Antigua.

A Department of Justice report has called into question the entire legal basis of the Bush administration’s repeated justifications of abusing prisoners captured in the former president’s terror war.

American officials have privately backed Pakistan’s “Sharia law for peace” deal with Taliban militants in the Swat Valley despite publicly criticizing it as a “negative development”.

The US intelligence chief reportedly expects Israel and Iran to engage in a major military confrontation before the end of the year.

Federal authorities tell ABC News that the FBI and others have been investigating whether financial scammer R. Allen Stanford was involved in laundering drug money for Mexico’s notorious Gulf Cartel.

In a report released last week, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense warned that controls over surplus military items provided to friendly nations are not effective enough to be certain these items are not falling into the wrong hands.

WESTERN EUROPE

Britain

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused the British Government of exploiting public fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties.

EASTERN EUROPE

Latvia

Latvia’s four-party ruling coalition collapsed on Friday and the president called for talks to forge a new government to tackle a deepening economic crisis.

Russia

The Russian ambassador to Latvia has denied rumors that Russia was involved in violent unrest last month in the Latvian capital, when some 50 people were injured, a Latvian news website said on Friday.

MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, United Nations officials acknowledged on Thursday.

Iraq

The US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the Army’s criminal Investigation Command and the Justice Department are investigating US soldiers and officials in the alleged misuse of a portion of the $125 billion initially sent to Iraq for reconstruction shortly after the fall of Saddam.

Israel

Israel is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt Iran’s illicit weapons project, experts say.

Palestinian militants on Thursday fired rockets and mortars at southern Israel, the Israeli army said just hours after troops reportedly were involved in a firefight when they briefly entered Gaza.

Lebanon

A seemingly earnest supporter of the Palestinian cause, Lebanese citizen Ali al-Jarrah was arrested for spying for Israel, having sent reports and taken clandestine photographs of Palestinian groups and Hezbollah since 1983.

Palestinian Territories

UN officials said Wednesday that several large, unexploded Israeli bombs left over from last month’s war in the Gaza Strip have gone missing in the Hamas-ruled territory.

EAST ASIA

China

China must guard against “hostile forces” within and outside the country working to stir up trouble among its masses of newly unemployed workers, a senior trade union official said in comments published on Wednesday.

China has ordered government and security forces in Tibet to crush any signs of support for the Dalai Lama, state media said Thursday, as the tense 50th anniversary of an anti-Chinese uprising neared.

North Korea

North Korea threatened on Monday to launch what its neighbors believe is a ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S. territory, just as Hillary Rodham Clinton was flying to Asia on her first overseas trip as U.S. secretary of state.

North Korea has said it is “fully ready” for war with South Korea, in the latest threat issued amid rapidly deteriorating inter-Korean relations.

North Korea could be ready to test fire an intermediate range ballistic missile by the end of the month, respected defence analysis group Jane’s said Friday.

CENTRAL ASIA

Afghanistan

Iran is helping Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, said General David Petraeus, who is in charge of U.S. forces in the Central Asian nation and Iraq.

SOUTH ASIA

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels have denied UN claims they have been shooting civilians fleeing the country’s war zone and recruiting child soldiers.

Sri Lanka’s military shot down two Tamil Tiger airplanes flying a defiant air raid on the capital Colombo on Friday, and two people were killed when one plunged into a government building.

AFRICA

Equatorial Guinea

Gunmen in speed boats launched an attack on Equatorial Guinea’s presidential palace on Tuesday in what appeared to be an attempted coup.

Zimbabwe

A Zimbabwe court on Tuesday charged a senior MDC party official over a plot involving terrorism and insurgency, just days after the party joined a unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

Manjit Singh is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com