Israel's 2013 Elections — Netanyahu Expected to Remain at the Helm
On Tuesday, January 22, 2013, Israeli citizens will be voting in national elections. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009, is expected to form the next government, leading the nation as Israel’s prime minister into 2017, if his new government lasts that long.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party has joined forces with Israel Beiteinu, in an electoral alliance that is meant to strengthen a center-right ideological platform for the January parliamentary elections. If they receive a strong mandate from the Israeli population, leaders of both these parties will be looking for political partners to join their coalition who share the same ideals.
In recent days, Netanyahu has spoken, extensively, to journalists about his political views and his plans for 2013. Looking at his recent statements to the media, pro-Israel supporters can see what issues will be emphasized during Netanyahu’s expected future tenure as prime minister. What he has stressed in comments to the media could be the basis for future Israeli foreign policy initiatives, affecting Israel’s relations with other countries, especially on a diplomatic and military level.
Netanyahu’s major emphasis has been to provide security for the Jewish State. He has chosen to focus on security above social justice or economic issues that other political leaders in Israel are promoting on their agendas. At a recent briefing with Israel’s current Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz, along with members of the IDF Central Command, Netanyahu said: “Our mission is to maintain the security of the citizens of the State of Israel both in the settlements and, of course, in the country as a whole.”
Netanyahu spoke with the foreign media earlier in December at a Hanukkah event, expressing Israel’s security challenges. He emphasized five areas he has prioritized as prime minister. These include: (1) preventing a nuclear Iran, which he said remains the #1 challenge that Israel faces; (2) missile threats to the Jewish State; (3) the cyber threat to Israel’s security; (4) securing Israel’s borders; (5) advancing a secure peace, which mainly refers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu acknowledged, “These were weighty challenges for any country but Israel faces them all simultaneously.”
The Iranian Challenge
During his current term as prime minister, Netanyahu has spent time and energy raising awareness in the international community about the dangers posed by a nuclear armed Iran. He focused on Israel’s capability of addressing this danger, but emphasized to journalists that Iran is now closer to crossing the nuclear threshold. Netanyahu stated that there is no doubt that this will be a major challenge to Israel and the international community in 2013.
Dennis Ross, former senior adviser to U.S. presidents on Middle East issues, spoke at a recent conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in Jerusalem. Concerning Iran, he confirmed that “2013 is going to be a decisive year one way or the other.” Ross believes that within a year, if Iran continues at its current pace with its nuclear enrichment program, it will achieve nuclear capability. Israel has said this could happen in six months. It is expected that Israel and the United States will continue to work together in 2013 to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear, not only with continued economic sanctions, but preparing for the possibility of war.
Confronting Israel’s Enemies in the North and South
When Netanyahu took office in 2009, Hezbollah and Hamas were working to build up their missile arsenals. Today, Hezbollah has 60,000 missiles that it can use against Israel; four times the amount of missiles it had during the Second Lebanon War.
Hezbollah is obtaining these arms, mainly from Iran, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for preventing the re-arming of Hezbollah.
Despite Israel’s recent military operation in Gaza, Hamas still has approximately 5,000 missiles in its arsenal which it plans to use against the Jewish State when the current cease-fire ends. Just this week, Hamas leaders called for Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) to conduct a third Intifada (Palestinian Uprising) against Israel.
According to Netanyahu, “Over the last four years, the threats Israel faces from rockets and missiles have gotten more and more lethal.”
Netanyahu believes the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system has achieved Israel’s goal of preventing casualties in its cities and towns. “This system has protected Israel’s population and also helped to avoid escalation. It has allowed us to better control events rather than have the events control us.”
In the coming year, if he is elected prime minister for another term, Netanyahu plans to dramatically increase Israel’s investment in the Iron Dome system and in other missile defense systems. He would like to help, not only Israel, but other countries that are faced with threats to their security.
“I find in my talks with world leaders that they express… quite a few of them…an avid interest in having these missile defense systems for their own countries; for their own defense.”
The Threat of Cyber Warfare
In regard to the cyber threat, Netanyahu has established a national cyber command. Israel is now a global leader in cyber warfare and plans to invest resources and dedicated manpower to adequately address this threat.
Netanyahu explained Israel’s position to the media: “By remaining on the cutting edge of cyber, Israel can benefit both commercially and diplomatically.”
Cyber warfare involves civilian defenses that are under potential attack. Netanyahu says that governments and companies have a keen interest in obtaining adequate cyber defense systems that will deal with new types of cyber threats. Israeli businesses are on the forefront in providing cyber defense to other nations, which also provides financial opportunities for new Israeli investors. Diplomatically, the international community has recognized the increased threat of cyber-attacks, and this has helped Israel form new partnerships.
Southern Border Threat
Netanyahu is responsible for ordering the building of a fence on Israel’s border with Egypt, as he felt it was necessary to deal with several border threats including terror emerging from the Sinai.
After the fence was erected, Israel managed to stop thousands of illegal immigrants from infiltrating the border. This slowed down crimes against individuals, and reduced human trafficking. In the future, those who are legitimate refugees will be accepted into Israel under international law, according to Netanyahu. He is now establishing connections with African nations that he hopes will receive some of the 60,000 illegal immigrants who are temporarily residing in Israel.
Negotiations and the Palestinians
Speaking frankly to journalists, Netanyahu has expressed his frustrations with the Palestinians who have refused to meet with him at the peace table to conduct direct negotiations without pre-conditions.
In the beginning of his term in office in 2009, Netanyahu spoke at Bar Ilan University about two states for two peoples – a Jewish State for the Jewish people; a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. Still, the Palestinians refused to meet with him, even when Netanyahu provided concessions, such as a 10 month moratorium on new construction in the settlements, something that no Israel leader had agreed to in the past. When the U.S. and Jordan came up with new proposals to launch talks, Israel agreed, the Palestinians refused.
Netanyahu has blamed the impasse on the Palestinians who he feels have continued to come up with obstacles, refusing to meet with him to advance the peace. Netanyahu continues to support a two-state solution, but he does not want to concede to the Palestinians in a way that harms the security of the Jewish State.
Netanyahu pined to members of the media: “The reason the Palestinians avoided negotiations for the past four years is a very simple one. They avoided negotiations because they were prepared to take concessions from Israel, but they were not prepared to make concessions to Israel.”
He pointed out that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish State; will not end the conflict with Israel; and will not seriously address Israel’s security needs. He explained that the Palestinians have continued to avoid negotiations because the international community has remained silent and not pressured them to continue peace talks.
“The decision of the Palestinians to go to the United Nations is simply the next step in their strategy to avoid direction negotiations with Israel. Again, they are trying to take concessions without making concessions in return, and this is unacceptable to Israel. The UN resolution simply ignored Israel’s security needs; it wasn’t mentioned.”
Though Israel called on many countries to oppose the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N., which Netanyahu claimed was “a material breach of the peace accord”, only eight countries joined Israel. Those were: The United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Panama, Palau, and Nauru. There were 138 U.N. nations who voted in favor of granting the Palestinians “non-member observer state” status; and, 41 nations abstained in the U.N. General Assembly.
Netanyahu declared that the Palestinians were attempting to establish unacceptable terms of reference for negotiations; and, attempting to upgrade their capability to wage a legal and diplomatic war against Israel. He also addressed the fact that Palestinian leaders are continuing to try and reconcile with Hamas leaders despite the fact that Hamas has, again, called for the destruction of Israel. According to Netanyahu, the international community looks on, saying nothing publicly about this issue, while at the same time blaming Israel for building homes in the Jewish ancient capital of Jerusalem.
In the future, if Netanyahu remains at the helm of Israel’s government, he will defend Israel’s vital security and national interests in 2013 and beyond.
Netanyahu says, “Israel will not remain silent. We will speak in defense of our rights, and in defense of what is right. Against those who wish to deny our past, and to wipe away our future, Israel will continue to speak the truth about our rights in our ancient homeland, and continue to defend our people against those who seek our annihilation.
On the eighth day of Hanukkah when he lit the last and final candle at the Western Wall, Netanyahu commented to all who would listen to him: “The Western Wall has been ours for 3,000 years, and it and the State of Israel will be ours forever.”
“Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.
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