Peres Officially Gave Netanyahu Right to Form Coalition — Security Threats Last on Priority List?


Benjamin Netanyahu receives the official authority from President Shimon Peres (r.) to form a new government. (Courtesy: Peres’s Facebook site, 2 February 2013)

Shimon Peres, at age 89, still knows how to pose with a meaningful look into another man’s eyes.  Gazing right back was Benjamin Netanyahu, who at age 63 has also been through a lot — but not as much as Peres — in trying to cope with Israel’s security and its topsy-turvy politics.  Netanyahu’s merged political party lost a lot of parliamentary seats, compared with four years ago, but still “Likud Beitenu” won more seats than any other party.  So, as expected, Peres on Saturday night officially gave Netanyahu the right to form a new coalition.

It was noteworthy, however, that Peres also delivered a list of priorities — as he understands them and advocates — and “security threats” are surprisingly at the bottom of Peres’s list.

Here is what Peres publicly declared, after meeting with most of the political parties that had won seats in the Knesset:

“The representatives of 82 members of the 19th Knesset raised important issues with me during our discussions and asked that they be considered when the government is formed. Included amongst them; the national deficit, social justice, the fight against discrimination, equitable sharing of the national burden, conscription to the IDF, restarting diplomatic negotiations to achieve peace, and ways to deal with the security threats facing Israel. I will pass these issues on to the Prime Minister.”

Although voters indicated that their emphasis is also on social issues at home — including “equitable sharing” which refers to requiring national service by ultra-Orthodox Jews and by Arab citizens as an alternative to military conscription — Netanyahu, in his victory speech on the night of January 22, had put stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon at the top of his priority list.  The prime minister repeated that during the Saturday night ceremony at Beit Ha-Nassi (“The Home of the President”) in Jerusalem.

Peres is also interested in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, and of course it has been his life’s dream that Israel and its Arab neighbors will establish a lasting peace.  But, in the current political environment, he intentionally worded his list as he did — and added:

“I hope that the work will be concluded quickly. The State of Israel needs diplomatic and economic stability, so that the government can make the necessary decisions which are on the agenda. The challenges are many, serious and urgent. The people expect a worthy government to be formed quickly so that it can roll up its sleeves and get to work.”

February 2, 2013

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