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Mid-East press ponder Israel vote

Israel"s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni addresses the press
Livni faces a difficult election

Israeli and Arab newspapers view aspects of possible snap elections in Israel, looking both at Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's personal performance, and Israeli and Mideast politics as a whole.

Livni is praised in one Israeli paper for revitalising her party, but criticised in others for lacking political skills in negotiations with the ultra-religious Shas and right-wing Likud parties. Two papers say the campaign will be long and difficult.

Arab papers fear the return of Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud and what they believe would be its negative impact on peace negotiations.

BEN KASPIT IN MAARIV (ISRAEL)

Tzipi Livni's leadership breathes life into a Kadima brand whose soul had almost expired.

A party that was born out of nothing, lost a leader, failed in war, went through frenetic convulsions, lost another leader, experienced not a small number of scandals and charge sheets - after all this fuss it is still perceived as a legitimate contender for victory in the elections.

HERB KEINON IN JERUSALEM POST(ISRAEL)

In politics, you have to be able to deal with people to get through the door... After barely beating Shaul Mofaz in the Kadima primary, Livni needed to hug him tightly and send him to speak to Shas... But for whatever reason, she didn't go in that direction.

If she still desires a political future, Livni will sooner or later have to learn that to be a politician, you have to be a politician.

SHALOM YERUSHALMI IN MAARIV (ISRAEL)

By way of the failed negotiations Livni has succeeded in crystallising a right-wing coalition opposite her... Livni enters the elections campaign under difficult conditions.

She will try to highlight her refusal to be blackmailed [in the coalition talks]. Netanyahu will call this an embarrassing lack of experience.

NAHUM BARNEA IN YEDIOT AHARONOT (ISRAEL)

Livni's opponents will make sure that the campaign will be as long as possible.

Netanyahu and [Labour leader Ehud] Barak are interested in wearing out Livni in the polls first and only then going for elections. For Netanyahu elections in February are a risk; for Barak it is a disaster.

ALUF BENN IN HAARETZ (ISRAEL)

The situation leaves Olmert in his seat at least until spring. Until then he will be immune from being ousted and will conduct himself in a statesmanlike way in comparison to his rivals, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu, who will rip each other to shreds during the election campaign.

ABD-AL-AZIM HAMMAD IN AL-AHRAM (EGYPT)

Snap elections are now imminent. This is something which all Israeli centre and leftist parties and also all Arab countries and foreign parties, wanted to avoid, for fear of the return of the Netanyahu to rule Israel.

EDITORIAL IN AL-WATAN (SAUDI ARABIA)

The failure to form a coalition will re-draw Israel's political map, particularly as the extremist rightist parties, from Likud to Shas have different agendas than those of Kadima.

Negotiations will be delayed and this is in fact an Israeli escape and an affirmation of the failure of negotiations on all issues.

ABU YAZAN IN AL-DUSTUR (JORDAN)

Likud seems most likely to win the election. Kadima will most likely exit the political arena and the Israeli party life, very rapidly and suddenly, just as it entered less than three years ago.

AHMAD ABU-SALUM AL-MANASRAH IN AL-BAATH (SYRIA)

The crisis of political forces inside the Israeli entity, which coincides with more a complicated and intensive crisis in the US, is the direct result of expansionist and hostile policies.

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