Worthy Christian News » World News » Netanyahu on Track for Rematch with Barak
Friends and even foes of former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are smoothing the way for him to timely mount a challenge against current premier Ehud Barak in a special election in early February. The remaining quandry, however, is whether the Knesset also will dissolve itself and allow voters to truly reflect the huge rightward shift in Israeli public opinion caused by Camp David and the Palestinian uprising.
Netanyahu cleared the first hurdle in his comeback on Tuesday evening, when he was warmly welcomed back to the political fray by the Likud central committee and party chairman and rival Ariel Sharon. In a televised session with many light moments and a few tense crowd reactions sprinkled in, Sharon and Netanyahu were openly cordial and pledged that no matter who won the party nomination, they would walk "together" on the "new path" a confident Likud will chart for the nation.
Netanyahu was granted a symbolic seat at the head table with sitting Likud MKs, and on a number of occasions heartily shook hands and traded quips with Sharon. Seen by many Likud activists as a caretaker of the party until Netanyahu ended his "time out" from politics, Sharon began his address by saying, "Bibi, my friend." The audience cheered, waving placards and chanting slogans in support of Netanyahu.
Sharon told party loyalists he intended to run for party chair in primaries next week, adding, "I hope to receive your support. If I am not elected, we will all walk together." While an earlier speech by Netanyahu was often interrupted by applause, Sharon drew boos when he announced he would try as prime minister to form a national emergency government with Barak as defense minister. Sharon also was jeered when he called on Center Party MK Roni Milo to return to the Likud.
Then on Wednesday, the Knesset waived parliamentary time limits and quickly passed on preliminary reading three so-called "Netanyahu amendments" which would allow non-Members of the Knesset to run in the snap election forced by Barak's sudden resignation last Saturday night. Labor (including Barak) and Shas assured the bills a wide margin of support, but their incentive is to avoid a general election for the Knesset as well. Opponents of the measure include Meretz, Shinui and Yisrael B'Aliyah, which are anxious to test their strength anew in early elections, a motivation shared by Likud.
The proposed changes to the Basic Law on Government will now go to the Knesset Law committee, chaired by Meretz MK Amnon Rubinstein, which on Monday will consider these new legislative measures in committee, alongside the pending early elections bill. In a move co-ordinated with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg plans to then bring the "Netanayhu amendments" up for a vote next Tuesday, just ahead of the bill to dissolve parliament. The strategy is to force the various factions to first decide on a special Barak-Netanyahu rematch on February 6, 2001, thereby reducing chances of passage of a law mandating early elections for all. Both bills need a 61 vote majority to pass, and the party in the driver's seat this time may be the 10-member leftist Meretz faction, which is leaning toward a ballot for both prime minister and parliament.
Barak's resignation, which took effect yesterday, set in motion the special election for prime minister only within 60 days, leaving the Knesset only a few days to consider the related bills before adjourning for the campaign recess next week. The two bills have a direct impact on that election, and will be the only items taken up next week. Since the dissolution legislation was introduced first, in theory it should be given priority and be brought to a vote ahead of the "Netanyahu amendments."
But Knesset Speaker Burg has reveresed the order and held hours of consultations yesterday, telling MKs they must decide whether they prefer general elections or a special election. If the Knesset votes to dissolve itself, the special election would be canceled and anyone could run for PM, including Netanyahu. Shas has said it would not support dissolution of the Knesset if the "Netanyahu amendment" passes first.
Most observers agreed that Barak pulled a fast one on Netanyahu and the Likud by exploiting a new, stop-gap provision originally intended to allow a prime minister to resign and walk quietly away from office without dragging the whole Knesset down with him. Political analysts and commentators warned that if Barak is re-elected, he would return to the same grid-locked Knesset he has failed to unite for months now. There also seems to be strong sentiment that the failed talks at Camp David in July and the rise in Palestinian violence has dramatically altered the political mood of the country, necessitaing new Knesset elections. Editorials and opinion columns in such foreign newspapers as THE NEW YORK TIMES and WALL STREET JOURNAL echoed this line of reasoning.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.