Obama faces double dilemmas in Mideast

Israel‘s shift to the right could throw a monkey wrench into President Barack Obama‘s conciliatory overtures to Iran and his budding drive to promote Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

Results of elections this week in Israel are likely to ensure a pivotal role for rightist Benjamin Netanyahu, whose tough statements on Iran reflect the distrust of Israeli voters. And unlike many Israelis, his aim in dealing with the Palestinians does not include immediate peace negotiations.

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer

Netanyahu says he wants to focus on reviving the Palestinian economy and leave peacemaking for later. At the same time, he wants to expand the Israeli population on the West Bank beyond the current total of nearly 300,000.

The Palestinians, moderate or extremist, have other plans for the area: forcing the Israelis to withdraw and making the territory part of a Palestinian state.

Tzipi Livni, who has moved from hard-line to centrist over the years and accepts the principle of yielding territory, still is in the running for Israeli prime minister, along with Netanyahu. On the distant right is the Yisrael Beitenu Party’s Avigdor Lieberman, who might gain a toehold in the government.

Samuel Lewis, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, observed in an interview that with the clear “shift to the right,” it’s likely Netanyahu ultimately will become prime minister with a coalition Cabinet that “would not very easily produce a broad-based agreement with the Palestinians.”

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