President Shimon Peres is expected to ask Benjamin Netanyahu this weekend to form a new government in the wake of last month’s Israeli elections. That election won’t bring peace with the Palestinians any closer — it wasn’t even an issue except for two small parties — but it could keep peace from slipping even farther away.
Prime Minister Netanyahu would prefer putting the issue on a back burner, but he may not be able to if Yair Lapid sticks to one of his campaign promises. Lapid, leader of the new Yesh Atid party, which came in a surprising second with 19 mandates, said he would only join a government committed to restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.
Lapid, who would like to become prime minister himself some day, is a pragmatic moderate, neither hawk nor dove. He understands domestic issues may have been the number one concern of Israeli voters this year, especially those who voted for him, but the public at large is much more supportive of the two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians than Netanyahu and his Likud Yisrael Beiteinu crowd. Therein lies an opportunity for Lapid not only for future elections but for repairing Israel’s strained relations with the United States and other allies as well as turning around its growing international isolation.
Read more about it in my Washington Watch column.