As published in the February 17th, 2009 issue of The Cauldron.
Reid J May
Israel held its parliamentary elections last Tuesday, marking the second such occasion in less than one year. The last election resulted in a win for the centrist Kadima Party, which was subsequently unable to form a government coalition with rival politicians.
Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, may be faced with a similar challenge this time around—as of Friday, the party held a one seat lead, 28 to 27, over rival Likud Party and leader Benjamin Netanyahu. About 100,000 votes remain to be counted and results will be verified sometime later this week.
Both Kadima and Likud are claiming victory—and the right to form a government with their leader at the helm—in this election. While Kadima won the same number of seats in the September 2008 election, Likud gained 15, giving legitimacy to its claim of mandate by the people. The Israeli election committee still needs to certify all results.
Iran Willing to Talk
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that he will welcome talks with the United States in a “fair atmosphere with mutual respect,” according to CNN. This news came one day after Barack Obama spoke of the need for a face-to-face dialogue with Iran.
Obama said his administration is reviewing the current policy towards Iran and says that the U.S. wants to use all resources to resolve issues with the nation. That would likely require a compromise on the uranium enrichment Iran continues to seek.
Ahmadinejad claims Iran is seeking nuclear capabilities for energy purposes and says they are against the use of nuclear weapons.
Gregg Drops Out As Commerce Nominee
Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew his nomination to become commerce secretary on Thursday citing “irreconcilable differences” over the economic stimulus bill and the 2010 census, according to Fox News.
Gregg and President Barack Obama do not hold consistent views over the execution of the 2010 census, which Obama wants to have overseen by the Whitehouse. Republicans see this as a violation of power and have threatened to take the case to court if Obama does not reverse his plans.
According to CNN, a Republican aide familiar with Gregg’s decision said the Senator consulted with GOP leaders before making his decision. It was also indicated that Gregg had concerns about being muted on cabinet decisions that were important to the Democrats, but not the Republicans.
Gregg said it was “his mistake, obviously to say yes.” He continued that it would have been an even bigger mistake to take the job and then “not be able to do it as it should be done on behalf of the President.”
Clinton Travels to Asia
Hillary Clinton will depart Sunday for her first overseas trip as the Secretary of State. Clinton has plans to stop in China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. This decision represents a change in diplomatic tradition that the first overseas trip of a new administration is to Europe.
CNN quoted Clinton saying that the Obama Administration wants to develop a “broader and deeper” relationship with Asia, which is a region often neglected in the past. Most of Clinton’s discussions will focus on the global financial crisis, although furthering trade with the region is another stated goal of the trip.
Clinton also plans to name a special envoy, which will speak with North Korean officials regarding new diplomatic relations and the resolution of nuclear threats within the region. Clinton, according to CNN, said the United States is prepared to seek permanent, stable peace with North Korea. She also said, “If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations.”