Trump may pressure Netanyahu to replace right with left in new government

Former Israeli intelligence chief Amos Yadlin assesses that the Trump administration will pressure Netanyahu to include center-left Benny Gantz instead of the New Right party in his new government. 

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

With the Knesset election approaching and the U.S. administration getting ready to present a “deal of the century” for the Israelis and Palestinians, questions continue to arise over how the juxtaposition of the two will work out.

Even as conflicting reports have emerged over how advanced the U.S. plan is towards completion, American officials have made clear that they want to make it public soon.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in early January that the release of the plan would be postponed by “several months” because of the Israeli election and the ongoing refusal by the Palestinian Authority to accept the plan. However, later in the month, Friedman reportedly revealed in private talks that the Trump administration is planning to roll out its plan at the end of April.

The Knesset ballot is scheduled for April 9th. It is uncertain that a new government could be established by the end of the month.

“I think that the Americans have reached the conclusion – and this is an assessment, not a statement of fact – that they need to influence which government there will be in Israel after the elections,” said Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Yadlin is a former chief of Israeli military intelligence and has served as military attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to lead the next government, has already inserted U.S. President Donald Trump in his election campaign by putting the president in a video clip and on a giant billboard advertisement.

Interviewed on Kan public radio on Sunday, Yadlin indicated that while Trump might not openly get involved in the Israeli election campaign, he could get involved in the formation of the next Israeli government by issuing his peace plan during the weeks immediately after the election, when the potential prime minister is negotiating with various smaller parties to form a parliamentary majority.

Public opinion polling numbers have shown Netanyahu’s Likud party leading the pack by a sizable number of seats but with neither the right nor the left holding a majority. In this case, Netanyahu would have to think more broadly about who to choose as his government coalition partners. In previous governments, he has included center-left parties with the likes of Ehud Barak serving as defense minister and Tzipi Livni as peace negotiator.

Asked in the radio interview whether the Americans might encourage Netanyahu to include the new Israel Resilience party, headed by former IDF military chief Benny Gantz, into the new government, Yadlin said: “This is exactly the intention, to move the next coalition of the State of Israel to the center-right, not to the extreme right.”

The strong showing by Israel Resilience in the opinion polls bolsters the possibility that Trump’s team could convince Netanyahu to offer Gantz a place in the next government instead of the New Right party, which has been receiving far fewer seats in the polls.

Gantz has spoken in favor of territorial compromise while the New Right is against the establishment of a Palestinian state and has raised doubts over whether they could accept the Trump plan if, in fact, Israeli pullouts from Judea and Samaria are part of the deal.

Kan aired a recording of Netanyahu speaking to leaders of Arab states at last week’s Warsaw conference on Middle East stability, in which the prime minister says: “We will wait to see what the [U.S.] plan that will be presented after the Israeli elections will look like…I don’t think any of us should reject the plan by the American administration before it is even presented.”

Netanyahu has touted the Jewish State’s growing ties with the Arab world, adding in the recording: “For Israel to be at peace or normalize relations with the broader Arab world, we must have Israel-Palestinian peace.”

On the other hand, New Right candidate Caroline Glick told the Jerusalem Post in an interview: “It’s mystifying that [Trump administration officials] think there’s a deal to be made when there so obviously isn’t one from the Palestinian perspective.”