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MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party, will certainly be able to form a ruling coalition following the March 17 parliamentary elections. He will create a government of national unity and conduct a policy more independent from the United States, the director of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, told TASS in an interview.
After 99% of the ballot papers were counted it became clear that Likud contests 30 seats in a 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. As Netanyahu said, he hoped to draw the mandates of other right-of-center parties to form a ruling coalition and a new government within two or three weeks’ time.
"The victory of the Netanyahu-led party in the parliamentary elections means that Israel’s relations with Russia will go on developing and getting stronger. Tel-Aviv appreciates these relations and will not agree to change them just to cater to the United States’ wish. It is not accidental that Israel has brushed off all attempts to make it vote on the US side, when the Ukrainian issue was put to the vote at the UN General Assembly session," Satanovsky said.
"The leader of the Likud party has a constructive relationship with the Russian leadership. Trading and economic relations between Israel and Russia are on the ascent. After the cancellation of visas the flow of travellers visiting Israel from Russia — not from the post-Soviet space, but from Russia — is the second largest after that from the United States. Russian retirees resident in Israel who are getting Russian pensions number 40,500. The two countries are linked by purely humanitarian, family bonds," Satanovsky said.
"Russia has colossal prospects for cooperation with Israel in security matters. The security councils of Russia and Israel maintain very tight interaction. Before the parliamentary elections Netanyahu developed rifts the US president. Barack Obama would like to go down in history by approving a nuclear program for Iran. This affects Israel’s crucial interests. For this reason Netanyahu, acting in defiance of Obama’s wish, did address the Republican majority in the US Congress to make it quite clear that he was not going to shape his own policy on instructions from the White House," Satanovsky said.
"As for Netanyahu’s high-profile statement for the Washington Post, in which he promised to prevent the creation of the State of Palestine if he took the prime minister’s post again, in this case, too, he demonstrates his intention to confront Washington. He has been acting as a realist: at a time when the Middle East is a witness to such states as Libya, Iraq, Syria falling apart, Netanyahu cannot but feel doubts if a yet-to-be created Palestinian State will be viable enough," Satanovsky said.
Deputy Director of the RAS Institute of US and Canada Studies, Viktor Kremenyuk, disagrees. "When he went to speak against the Iranian nuclear program in the US Congress in defiance of President Barack Obama’s wish, Netanyahu was trying to score more political points to win support from those voters who have been urging him to act in defiance of White House policies. Netanyahu thereby violated not just the diplomatic etiquette by provoking a standoff between the president and the US Congress, but also jeopardized the negotiations with Iraq being conducted by the United States, Europe and Russia. It was an unprecedented move. Whereas the United States looked prepared to tolerate Tel Aviv’s escapades over the Israeli-Palestinian settlement, these days a wide crack has developed in relations between the United States and Israel over Iran, and it is not in Netanyahu’s interests to let that crack grow wider."
The head of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Center for International Security, Alexey Arbatov, believes that on the one hand Netanyahu took the right step to intervene in the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program, because no other country in the world is under a great threat than Israel. "After all Iran at a certain point promised to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. This is the reason why Tel-Aviv wishes to obtain nuclear weapons non-proliferation guarantees from Washington. On the other side it is better to conclude a treaty with Iran that may be not satisfy Israel 100% than not to conclude any treaty at all. That would be fraught with risks for Israel’s own security first and foremost," Arbatov told TASS.
"Netanyahu’s independence deserves respect, but his meddling in the political struggle between the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States is very wrong. At the same time the Netanyahu party’s victory in the parliamentary elections in Israel is a great benefit. Should a new political force come to power, the relations would have to be built anew. As for the Likud party and its leader, Russia and President Vladimir Putin have excellent relations with both," Arbatov said.
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