Daniel Levy: What Israeli elections results mean on global front

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Former Israeli peace process advisor Daniel Levy analyzes the global implications of Israel’s election results in a private memo for the European Council on Foreign Relations. The upshot: while the expected coalition is not likely to advance prospects for the two-state solution, the results indicate Israelis are concerned about Israel’s growing international isolation in large part because of the settlements:

“The key lesson for the West, and notably Europe, from the election is that concern over potential international isolation brought on by overzealous right-wing policies towards the Palestinians helped boost the centrist vote,” Levy, the director of ECFR’s Middle East programs, writes in a paper shared with the Back Channel. Yair Lapid, Israel’s second place finisher Yair Lapid:

repeatedly emphasised during the campaign that Israel risked being isolated internationally absent a more credible peace effort. Israel’s rightward drift, then, can be stemmed and even reversed if the West sends the right signals through smart pressure and imposing consequences, rather than evading its responsibility in responding to Israeli violations of international law. How the West approaches that responsibility will go some way to determining whether Lapid becomes the presentable face of a government that continues to deny Palestinian rights and defy International law or recognizes the need to challenge existing policies in this respect. The policy choices that the Palestinians take, of course, are not irrelevant to that equation.

Meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, forced towards the center domestically, may actually try to double-down on Iran, Levy suggests:

While the Iran issue featured marginally during Netanyahu’s campaign, it will likely be returned quickly to centre stage as the Prime Minister responds to his electoral setbacks by beating his war drums and trying to bamboozle Lapid and other political newbies with the most hush-hush intelligence reports. In fact, a wounded Netanyahu in a tight political corner may be a more dangerous political animal, especially if this is his last term in office. More effective and forward leaning U.S. and P5+1 diplomacy with Iran and a policy less driven by Netanyahu’s threats, alongside intense engagement with the relevant players in Netanyahu’s new coalition, would all help make 2013 a less angst-prone year in this regard than was 2012.

Iran-born analyst Meir Javedanfar, writing for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse, agrees:

However, the difference of opinion between Yesh Atid and Netanyahu is unlikely to have much impact on Netanyahu’s Iran policy. It’s unlikely that Yesh Atid will want to expend its political capital on a fight with Netanyahu over Iran. It wants to focus on far bigger, vote-winning issues — such as the draft law — and other domestic matters. It will want to save its ammunition for these, not Iran — which only 12% of Israelis considered urgent in a pre-election poll.

(Photo: Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address their supporters following the election. Photos by Reuters.)