With the Israeli-Palestinian peace process negotiations undergoing at a minimum what the chief U.S. interrogator in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Martin Indyk referred to as a suspension, the focus in Israel now has turned to their own version of political rumblings. (Israel must hold elections by November 2017.) While there is good reason for concern at the collapse of the talks, there is no immediate consequence for Israel, at least not from a security perspective. In fact , ironically, for the Netanyahu Government and sadly for the peace process, this timing will permit them to force attention to be focused strictly on Iran as the summer deadline for the P5 + 1 nuclear weapons inspection talks to reach a conclusion; without being distracted by on-going talks with the Palestinians. Clearly Susan Rice’s visit to Israel this week and Secretary Hagel’s planned trip for next week are studied attempts to keep track of the thinking in Israel concerning their assessment of Iran’s compliance as well as to share with Netanyahu a sense of where or how the talks may be resolving.
In Jerusalem, the latest flurries about peace have emerged from their lead negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who remains in the Government, but is beginning to consider how she should position herself politically in the next election. She will face a new leader in Isaac Herzog who will lead Labor next time; the pitiful remnants of her old Kadima Party; as well as efforts within her own Hatenuah Party to determine whether they have enough clout remaining to stand alone next time or make their bed elsewhere. (All of this also will be affected by the new 3.25% votes needed for a Knesset seat as opposed to the previous 2%. )
The new guy on the block, Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, now has his chance to push domestic reforms, in the pre-election window which the pause in the peace talks provides. It will also determine if Lapid will be able to drag Bennett along with him or Bennett, at the end of the day, will be strictly about Bennett and HaBayit Hayehudi’s future.
The old guy on the block, who indeed could be making a not surprising comeback, reportedly is Ehud Barak. In his presentation in Washington this week– outside of his substantive remarks concerning Iran as well as the Palestinian peace talks—there was a clear itching in his comments on the side about a possible return to electoral politics. In such an eventuality, the man on the outside will certainly stir up the kettle should he continue to consider cranking up his engine for another try at governing—shades of Ariel Sharon; a challenge which Bibi as well as the other political leaders will need to take very seriously.