|A MAJORITY OF ONE?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces his most serious crisis to date.
January 22, 1998
November 7, 1997:
Benjamin Netanyahu tries to keep his coalition intact.
November 3, 1997:
An interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu .
September 4, 1997:
Suicide bombers threaten the peace process.
April 21, 1997:
Mr. Netanyahu faces a corruption charge.
May 30, 1996:
Benjamin Netanyahu is elected prime minister of Israel.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East.
With his government on the verge of collapse, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to arrive in Washington, D.C., on January 20, to meet with President Clinton. Although the two leaders are scheduled to discuss further troop withdrawal from the West Bank, the real question at hand is whether Mr. Netanyahu's government will be in power long enough to implement any agreement.
Crisis is nothing new for Mr. Netanyahu. Since coming to power in May 1996, his time in office has been plagued by controversy. From the "Bar-On Affair", in which he was charged with political cronyism for the appointment of Roni Bar-On as attorney general, to the botched assassination attempt of a Hamas leader in Jordan, Mr. Netanyahu has weathered a seemingly endless series of crises.
But the recent resignation of his foreign minister, David Levy, is perhaps the most serious to date. Sighting differences over the peace process and welfare economic policies, Mr. Levy resigned from his post and subsequently pulled his five seat Gesher party out of the governing coalition.
After the dust settled, Prime Minister Netanyahu was left clinging to a tenuous one-vote majority in the Knesset, Israel's House of Parliament.
Many political analysts believe that Mr. Levy's resignation may create a domino effect of resignations. Yitzhak Mordechai, the defense minister, recently declared that he, too, will resign if the government does not complete its withdrawal from the West Bank.
And it just may be the issue of troop redeployment that brings down the government. Mr. Netanyahu faces the nearly impossible task of devising a withdrawal plan that will appease the various factions of his governing coalition, not to mention the United States and the Palestinians.
But crisis may be Mr. Netanyahu's greatest ally. Although the right wing and ultra-orthodox factions are opposed to any further secession of land, they realize that if the current regime falls, it could be replaced by a government that may give up more land than any agreement reached by Mr. Netanyahu. Such a possibility may prove to be the bond that keeps the coalition intact.
Will Netanyahu survive? Our two guests hold different opinions on the subject. According to Dr. Amos Perlmutter, professor of government at The American University, in Washington, D.C., it is premature to write Mr. Netanyahu's political obituary. He says that the prime minister will survive this crisis just as he survived previous ones.
But Dr. Ehud Sprinzak, a professor of political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and visiting fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, says that "it is not a question of whether the government will fall, but when."