Vice PM Warns Netanyahu: Congress Speech Runs Afoul of Likud Positions

Poll Shows Israelis More Interested in Peace Than Netanyahu, Shalom's Positions Would Indicate

by Jason Ditz, May 25, 2011

Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom today angrily rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the suggestion in his speech to Congress that a peace deal might leave some settlements outside of Israel’s borders.

Shalom insists that this was “not my view and not the policy of Likud,” the ruling party which Netanyahu leads. Other top Likud MPs condemned Netanyahu for the speech as well, though the comment itself was likely an attempt to spin himself as reasonable in a speech which largely amounted to issuing onerous demands to the Palestinians and pausing occasionally to be showered with applause by US officials.

Interestingly, even as members of Israel’s government try to position themselves as even more opposed to a peace deal as Netanyahu, a new poll shows the Israeli public leaning the other way, with a strong majority saying the PM should have endorsed President Obama’s call for peace talks, albeit with “reservations” about the exact terms. Netanyahu, by contrast, condemned Obama’s comments, a position apparently shared by only about 36% of Israelis, but seemingly an overwhelming majority of the American Congress.

Hostility toward concessions is, of course, the bread and butter of the right-far-right coalition government, and many members of the coalition openly rejected the notion of peace on general principle. With the Israeli public shifting from the jingoist attitudes that dominated the most recent election (in the wake of the massive 2008-09 Gaza War) toward a more peace-minded mood, it remains to be seen how long this coalition can sustain itself. It is, after all, Israelis who elect the government and not US Congressmen looking to appear “pro-Israel” by cheering laudly at every slogan the prime minister can think of.

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