from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Israel’s Election Timing

December 4, 2014

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

More on:

Middle East and North Africa

Israel

Palestinian Territories

United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

Israel will have an election next year on March 17. (St. Patrick’s Day is not widely celebrated there.)

Given the usual weeks needed to assemble a coalition, a new government will be formed only in April 2015, perhaps the end of April. It is then just a matter of weeks until the summer-- and what follows the summer is the American election season. Of course, there is a tradition of late and even last minute American efforts at peacemaking: Clinton at Camp David, Bush at Annapolis. But both failed, and the clock ran out.

An article in The Times of Israel described the pre-election situation:

Pressure on the two sides to get back to the negotiating table will ease. Nobody expects Israel to make any moves on this front in the middle of an election campaign....now even the calls for renewed talks — issued every so often by (more and less) well-meaning politicians and diplomats across the globe, especially during visits here — will fall silent. Threats of sanctions if Israel fails to move toward a two-state solution, such as those issued recently by the European Union, will likely cease for the duration of the campaign as well....“New elections will probably bring us some reprieve,” a senior Israeli official said Tuesday. “The countries seeking to recognize Palestine argue that their move is intended to exert pressure on Israel to make concessions. They know that this won’t be effective in the middle of an Israeli election season.” Parliaments that have already scheduled Palestine recognition votes — for instance, in Portugal, Denmark, and Slovenia — are unlikely to cancel merely because Israel is entering another election campaign. But the decisions these parliaments will make will be less noticed, because no one expects Israelis to make concessions or even to deal with the Palestinian question before they’ve decided who their next leader will be.

We can expect fewer Kerry visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah between now and April.

What of the President? Will he be content to see the clock run out? It seems to me likely that President Obama will put down his own "Obama Parameters," but if he does so in late 2015 or especially in 2016 they will have little impact. He may take this path as a "legacy item" (an effort to have something to show for all his forays into this area) and/or--depending on the content--to strike another political blow against Israel. This will depend in part on who is Israel’s next prime minister and what is the nature of the coalition he or she leads. Still, if I were betting I would put some money on Obama Parameters.

What of the United Nations? Perhaps Israel’s election gives President Abbas an excuse to take American advice and not present his new resolution to the Security Council. But if he goes forward, Israel’s new elections give the Obama administration all the justification needed for a veto--and for a veto without wringing of hands and efforts to extract more Israeli concessions.

More on:

Middle East and North Africa

Israel

Palestinian Territories

United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

Up
Close