Thursday, January 17, 2013

Israeli Politics: What's Left?

by Clifford F. Thies

With the prospect of the temporarily merged, center-right Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu Party and its ally, the religious Jewish Home Party, gaining perhaps fifty seats in Tuesday's election, but short of the number needing for a majority in the Knesset, various other parties are suddenly positioning themselves as possible king-makers. The ultra-orthodox Shas Party has traditionally swung left or right, in return for concessions including exemption for military service. David Lapid, founder of the new centrist party Yesh Atid has signaled a willingness to join a Netanyahu-led government by saying he would not be a "minister without portfolio," which means he would be willing to be a minister of a department commensurate with his party's strength in the Knesset. Netanyahu has shown himself to be quite adroit in putting together ruling majorities from amongst potential coalition parties.
Labor - center-left - with the collapse of Kadima, Labor has re-emerged as the main opposition party. With the splintering of the security-oriented wing of the party that occurred during the term of the outgoing government, the revived Labor Party is more focused on social and economic issues.

Hatnuah (Tzipi Livni's centrist party) - Livni's faction of the collapsed Kadima Party, one of the two larger factions, suffers under her head-strong leadership. She simply acts too much like an ex-wife with respect to Netanyahu.

Meretz - left-of-center - a zionist socialist party, not unlike what Labor used to be and may now again be.

Hadash - radical left - an Jewish-Arab hard left party, an anti-zionist, communistic party the Jewish members of which range from naive to self-loathing.

Balad - a Palestinian progressive left party - support a two state solution with one state being Palestinian (exclusively) and the other being "binational" with Palestinians and Jews recognized as a separate nationalities.
While Netanyahu has options both among religious parties (some of which are not identified in the above discussion) and center parties (ditto) with which to cobble together a ruling majority, it appears nearly impossible for the left parties to do so. Netanyahu would be in a position of strength, and could play one potential coalition partner against another and, so, reduce the cost of the concessions needed to put a majority together. The left of center parties, having few alternatives, would be forced by hard-barganing to make significant concessions.

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