The Sky is Falling on Israel... Again
Israeli voters were still casting their ballots, but the Washington Post already provided its readers with a doom-and-gloom forecast of Prime Minister Netanyahu having to govern with a shrunken Likud-Beitenu partnership that will be more dependent on religious and hawkish parties, and thus courting further international isolation ("Netanyahu's joint ticket may have a fractious result -- Israeli premier melded parties, but a loss of seats is predicted" by Joel Greenberg, page A5, Jan. 22)
For Netanyahu, Greenberg writes with undisguised relish, "not all has gone as expected, and he may end up with a more fractious and hawkish coalition than the one he has led, leaving him less room to maneuver."
To make matters even worse, Greenberg adds, Netanyahu's own Likud party is moving away from a two-state solution and he also has to contend with the rising prominence of the new Jewish Home party that advocates a single-state solution with an Israeli takeover of 60 percent of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with only limited self-rule.
Bottom line for Greenberg: Jewish Home's rising popularity "could severely limit Netanyahu's options if he is prodded by Washington or European nations after elections to renew peace efforts with the Palestinians. Dependent on a coalition pushed further to the right, in alliance with ultra-Orthodox parties, Netanyahu could increase settlement building and reject steps that might promote resumption of negotiations, risking further international isolation."
Thus, an election outcome that bodes ill for Israel, as far as Greenberg is concerned. And still not a single vote at polling stations had been counted. But why wait for the actual verdict of the electorate? With Greenberg and the Post, speculation -- especially of the Israel-is-doomed kind -- trumps reality.
What makes Greenberg's jeremiad so shaky, ridiculous and far-fetched is that toward the end of his article, he switches directions and comes up with a couple of far less gloomy scenarios.
As he's about to sign off, Greenberg suddenly has second thoughts and speculates that Netanyahu actually could cobble together a coalition with a couple or three centrist parties that would give him far more maneuvering room by making him "less dependent on far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties." Or, Greenberg adds, Netanyahu might even assemble a wider coalition with parties both to the right and left of him that would give him even more governing leverage.
If such rosy scenarios also were part of pre-election speculation, it's fair to ask why Greenberg decided to devote the bulk of his article to the most dire forecasts, when far less gloomy scenarios were also quite possible. The answer, of course, is that worst-case scenarios for Israel have become a staple in the "news" pages of the Washington Post. With or without any actual basis.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers