Sunday April 5,2009
By Matthew Kalman
ISRAELI premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government got off to a bad start last week.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has returned to power, 10 years after he was ousted, with a 30-member cabinet so big that carpenters had to construct a new table for it in the Knesset.
But critics say his broad coalition, which includes members of the centre-left Labour party, the religious United Torah Judaism and Shas, and the secularist Israel Is Our Home, cannot last. The new government’s peace policies are opaque and its economic policies are likely to be a fudged compromise between Netanyahu’s free-market Thatcherism and the socialist paternalism of Labour.
Outside Israel, Netanyahu was denounced as a warmonger for failing to include a clear commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians in his government policy guidelines. But he was overshadowed by his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israel Is Our Home Party.
Lieberman, who grabbed attention by declaring that Israel was no longer bound by the Annapolis peace process, is under investigation on a string of corruption allegations and spent his first full day as foreign minister being questioned under caution by fraud police. If charged, he will have to resign.