By George Whitten, BosNewsLife Chief Middle East Correspondent
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (BosNewsLife) –- In a rare show of unity, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has aligned with Palestinian militant group Hamas in criticizing Israel’s choice for prime minister, BosNewsLife learned Saturday February 21.
The announcement came after Israeli President Shimon Peres asked right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government. It was the first time in Israel’s history that the winner of national elections was not offered the position of forming the government.
Netanyahu, who has served as prime minister in the past, called on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to join him in what he called “a broad national unity government.”
Livni, who had hoped to become prime minister herself, has shown little interest in joining Netanyahu’s government. “Netanyahu wants us to stabilize the government. He won’t get us.,” she said. “This is a coalition that will damage the country. It won’t be stable, but I won’t be there to save Bibi from himself and his partners.”
However officials said the two rivals may meet on Sunday, February 22, to discuss the situation. He was expected to offer her Kadima party key portfolios, including Foreign Affairs and Finance with Livni appointed as the next deputy prime minister.
If Livni refuses to join him, he will most likely form a coalition of nationalist and religious parties that Palestinians fear will take a much more hard-line approach to possible peace talks.
In addition, the charter of Netanyahu’s Likud party calls for Israel never to give up the territories it took in 1967, including “Judea (and) Samaria”, also known now as the West Bank and Gaza. Likud also views the Jordan river as the permanent eastern border of Israel and Jerusalem as the “eternal, united capital of the State of Israel” and only of Israel.
“We will not deal with the Israeli government unless it accepts a two-state solution and accepts to halt settlements and to respect past accords,” Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in published remarks.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas — the Islamist rulers Netanyahu has vowed to topple — claimed Israel had picked “the most extremist and most dangerous” politician to lead the country.
The choice of Netanyahu “does not herald a period or peace or stability in the region,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.
However Israeli President Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, made clear that Netanyahu had the best chance of forming a government quickly which he said was in Israel’s “national interest”.
“The people of Israel need governmental stability in order to deal with the challenges that lie ahead,” he said, a clear reference to the Middle East peace talks and concerns over Iran.
In his acceptance speech, Netanyahu expressed his concern that “Iran is developing nuclear weapons” which he said, “poses the greatest threat” to Israel’s existence since the War of Independence. “Iran’s terror wings surround us from the north and south,” he added, a reference also to militants in the Gaza Strip who are believed to receive support from Iran. (BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).