Friday, February 22, 2013

Netanyahu finds a partner, still far short of a majority coalition

by Clifford F. Thies

One month after the election and Benjamin Netanyahu has still to organize a majority coalition. But, he has found a partner, Tzippi Livni, and her centrist Hatenuah Party. Hatenuah's 6 seats plus the temporarily united Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu's 31 seats, total 37, far short of the 61 needed for a majority.

Potentially, Netanyahu could close the deal by bringing both Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid Party, with 19 seats; and, Neftali Bennett's Jewish Home Party, with 12 seats. Their addition would make for a nice majority of 68 seats. Kadima, a once significant centrist party, with 2 seats, might bring the total to 69.

Such a coalition would have the prospect of making significant reforms, including negotiations leading to the recognition of the Palestinian state; and, the obligations of all citizens of Israel - including Arab Israelis and Ultra-Orthodox Israelis - for military service.

Livni made re-starting negotiations with the Palestinians a cornerstone of her campaign. By including Jewish Home in the ruling coalition, any agreement that might be reached would have to treat the Jews of the West Bank settlements fairly. Also, both Yesh Atid and Jewish Home made fairness in sharing the burden of military service cornerstones of their campaigns.

If Netanyahu is unable to bring Lapid and Bennett into the ruling coalition, new elections might have to be called. The two Ultra-Orthodox parties together have 19 seats. These, plus Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and Hatenuah and Kadima, come to 58 seats. Labor seems determined to oppose any Netanyahu-lead government. So, what does this leave? Meretz (a Jewish socialist party) and the three Arab parties.
I call a coalition involving Netanyahu and the Ultra-Orthodoc along with a mix of the center and left-wing parties, the leap-frong coalition, because it leap-frongs over the center-right parties of Yesh Atid and Neftali Bennet. As surprising as Netanyahu has shown himself to be in putting coalitions together, a leap-frog coalition would surprise me.

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