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Israeli government in a state of ‘collapse,’ says former U.S. Middle East peace envoy

December 4th, 2014
02:40 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Former U.S. Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday that the Israeli government has entered a state of “collapse.”

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two key ministers of his coalition cabinet and announced that he would call for parliament to be dissolved, paving the way for new elections.

“They [the government] started to come apart over the peace negotiations last year. But since then, with the war in Gaza and then the increased conflict in Jerusalem, there's been divergent responses to all of this, which has just created this, I think collapse is the best word for it, in the ability of the government to function,” Indyk, who is now Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution, said.

“There is also a sense that this government wasn't able to function effectively, combined with right-wing parties and the center parties in this coalition were coming apart.”

Also at the heart of the rift is a divisive nationhood bill backed by right-wing members of the cabinet as well as Netanyahu, which was designed to give Arab Israelis individual rights, but not the “national” rights Jewish Israelis would have.

Indyk, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997, said that “it's clear that if you look at the polls now, the Right is enjoying a surge.”

“[Israel's Economy Minister] Naftali Bennett, leading the Jewish Home Party, has in the polls risen by some five seats to what he has at the moment. And this indicates a shift to the right, which really started over the summer, I think, as a result of the Gaza War.”

Indyk said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who founded his own right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu, “is the man to watch, because even though he's on the right, he has a divergent view when it comes to a two-state solution.”

“[Lieberman] is strongly supporting a two-state solution because he wants to separate from the Arabs and Palestinians, even of Jerusalem. And he has now come out openly and embraced the Arab peace initiative, which includes a call for Israel to return to the '67 borders with mutually agreed swaps.”

Indyk stepped down in June following the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He maintained that “there was no lack of leadership on the part of the United States, that Secretary [of State John] Kerry, backed by President Obama, made every effort to try to move the parties towards a resolution.”

“I think both leaders, Abu Mazen, President Mahmoud Abbas on the Palestinian side, and Prime Minister Netanyahu were both looking over their shoulders at the more extreme parts of their polity in the Palestinian case."

"And of course Hamas, which is absolutely opposed to a two-state solution, and on the Israeli side within Prime Minister Netanyahu's own coalition, you had groups adamantly, also adamantly opposed to a two-state solution.”

“And so I think in those circumstances, it takes very strong-willed leaders to be able to push through a kind of opposition they were facing and, frankly, a public on both sides that didn't believe in the possibility of a two-state solution anymore because they didn't believe that the other side actually wanted it.”

“So a kind of distrust permeated the negotiations that was in the end impossible for us to overcome.”

Click above to watch the full interview.


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