A Further Moratorium

Political commentators in Israel anticipate that, when Prime Minister Netanyahu brings the issue of a further 3-month moratorium on construction to the vote in his cabinet, it will scrape through by a majority of one thanks to the abstention of the two members of Shas.

It wasn’t long ago that Shas’ spiritual mentor and leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, insisted that they would not agree to a further halt to building under any circumstances. Maybe Netanyahu persuaded him to reconsider with generous offers of funding for the charedim, or perhaps he realised, like the members of the right-wing Yisrael Beinteinu party, that bringing down the present government would, in all likelihood, lead to the formation of a Likkud-Kadima coalition with which they would feel far less comfortable.

However, persuading his cabinet to accede to a further 3-month moratorium is the least of Netanyahu’s worries. What will happen when this period comes to an end? Will Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu agree to remain in the coalition when the full extent of the concessions that Israel is likely to have to make becomes clear? The chances are that the days of the current government are numbered.

Should Netanyahu be successful in persuading his cabinet to agree to a further freeze later this week, this will not only be a personal victory for both him and Secretary of State Clinton, but it will also put pressure on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Whether either they or the Israelis are prepared to make the concessions that a peace accord would entail has yet to be seen.

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