Saturday, February 23

Brinkmanship in Coalition Building in Israel

Operator ... Coalition of the Willing? --  Isr...
Operator ... Coalition of the Willing? -- Israeli Electoral System (January 30, 2013 / 19 Shevat 5773) ... (Photo credit: marsmet546)
English: Israeli Minister of Defense Shaul Mof...
Shaul Mofaz  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Amram Mitzna
English: Amram Mitzna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Emoticonfucius #3: "Netanyahu Sounds Awes...
Emoticonfucius #3: "Netanyahu Sounds Awesome" (Photo credit: USb_cABLE)
With all the various blips on TV such as the Prisoner X Affair, not much attention was given to the coalition building process which is causing PM Netanyahu to sweat. His body language is unconcealed as the deadline to present a coalition to President Shimon Peires draws closer. He will have no choice but to request an extension of the 42 day period to form a coalition. He has a further grace period of 2 weeks from 28th Feb 2013.

Will Netanyahu succeed in putting a coalition together? He may have a formula to perform this almost unimaginable feat as there are still a few options available to him that are not so compatible with his party's world view.

Just after the 22nd Jan 2013 Elections, he was given the mandate by President Peires to put a ruling coalition together. This was done after consultations with Yesh Atid, Bayit Hayehudi, and the ultra-Orthodox parties, who gave him the mandate to be prime minister. Meretz, Labor, Hadash and the Arab Parties did not support a mandate for Netanyahu.

The centrist right -Yesh Atid of Yair Lapid, and the right - Bayit Hayehudi of Naftali Bennett, formed an alliance to go into the Likud-Beitenu coalition on condition that the ultra-Orthodox religious parties will not be in the coalition.

This is a big headache for Netanyahu, who had promised to take the parasitic ultra-Orthodox parties into his coalition. All this had created a weird situation as Zipi Livni of Hatnua Party was the first to join the Likud-Beitenu coalition with a promise that she would be appointed Minister of Justice, and also be in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians. She will not be independent in making decisions on these negotiations as she will have to tow Netanyahu's line on that issue. Livni's decision lacks logic and she will further lose credibility. Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz left Labor under Shelly Yachimovitz because they felt she would join the coalition. The joke is on them now.

It seems that brinkmanship is the name of the game. Shaul Mofaz, whose once strong Kadima Party has only 2 seats in the Knesset. He has decided to throw in his lot with Yesh Atid and Bayit Hayehudi.
Yair Lapid stated that he will not be part of a block preventing Netanyahu forming a coalition government. However that is what he has done using a different tactic by combining with the ultra right party of Bennett. Strange move or not so strange as both parties share a number of common principles. Yair Lapid has made statements referring to the Arab Parties as "Zuabies" (a reference to Hanin Zuabi MK in a derogetory manner) which has a streak of racism, and with whom he will never cooperate. Hardly surprising and is an indication of a threat to coalition building from a more right wing flank that push the conflict even further on the back-burner.

At the end of the day, on the verge of brinkmanship, they will all have to climb down their trees and be part of the Likud-Beitenu Coalition. The alternative would be new elections as the person who will be asked to form the next government, if Netanyahu fails, stands a good chance of not being able to perform this feat. Netanyahu gains to lose more support if there are new elections as many will join up with Yesh Atid and Bayit Hayehudi on the issue of conscripting the Haredim ( ultra-Orthodox ) to serve in the IDF.

If the threat to coalition building would come from the left (Labor, Meretz and the Arab Parties) we would be in a better situation as far as peace with our neighours and a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is concerned. There would be a chance of a true change of government that would improve Israel's status in the world. This is not the case at all with the Yesh Atid-Bayit Heyehudi on the right.

What we have is a quarrel between the right and centre right as to who will form the next government. It is unfortunate that peace negotiations is not the issue. Haredim serving in the army is a minor issue compared to the problems Israel faces from Iran, Hezbolla and Hamas. If there would be more emphasis on peace between Israel and its neighbours, the need for conscription would be minimized making it a non-issue. This of course should be considered.

It is obvious that Lapid wants a senior post in the cabinet or take a shot at being PM. He has no parliamentary experience. He is also not a social democrat and his newly found political ally is even less so. Many of us have no love for Netanyahu's illegal settler policies and his penchant for not freezing settlements in occupied areas. It would not be surprising if Labor joins up with Netanyahu if all else fails. Labor also stands to lose if there are new elections. The only parties that will gain is Yesh Atid and Bayit Hayehudi. Both Lapid and Bennett know this. A question mark remains if at the end of the day the brinkmanship will pay off. It just may.

One thing is certain - movement towards a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine will not occur because of these manoeuvres in coalition building. So many petty side issues are preventing a coalition deal which is not constructive nor will it improve Israel's image.
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