The offer of a free squadron of F-35 joint strike fighters is “an offer hard to refuse” a senior Israeli defense official tells the Jerusalem Post, but Aluf Benn suggests the Obama administration wants more than a brief extension of the settlement freeze in return. The goal is a coalition shake-up.
To date, Netanyahu was able to obtain cabinet approval for all U.S. dictates The right wing ministers in his coalition were not enthusiastic and did not go out of their way to sell the decisions to the public, but neither did they oppose the prime minister publicly. Now the situation is different. Shas announced that it will abstain and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that “we will not agree to even a single day of freeze.” If Lieberman votes in favor or abstains, and it does not matter what his excuse will be, he will be called a pushover. So it appears that for the first time, Netanyahu will face a divided vote on an important political issue.
But this is precisely what the Americans want: They want Netanyahu to change the composition of his coalition, bring in Kadima in place of the right wing factions and replace Lieberman with Tzipi Livni. That way the world will see that he’s serious about negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has opted to date to maintain his alliance with the right, fearing that Lieberman would steal voters away from him and that Livni would try to undermine him and push him out of office. But as the 91st day approaches, it may be that he has no choice.