Coalition Building

by Brien Jackson

There seems to be a growing opinon, or perhaps hope, that some sort of Kadima-Likud partnership government could happen in Israel, thus keeping Avigdor Lieberman roughly in the background in a somewhat unimportant position. I think there’s a fairly good chance of that actually, and I’ll go one step further and suggest that Ehud Barak and the Labor Party may come away with a better deal than Lieberman.

It’s important to remember that Netanyahu isn’t some more or less unknown right-winger looking to storm the gates, so to speak, but rather a former Prime Minister and still one of the countries most visible political figures. He’s someone, in other words, who wants to be taken seriously, both domestic and abroad, and forming a coalition primarily with a guy whose Arab-hate turns off Marty Peretz is not a good way to do that. At the same time, however, the prospect of a far-right coalition would be enough to keep the cards in a Likud-Kadima negotiation in Bibi’s hands, meaning he comes out as Prime Minister in any event. But if his main partner is the center-right Kadima instead of the racist Yisrael Beiteinu, and even further if he can give the Foreign Ministry to Ehud Barak and stick Lieberman at finance, he’ll be leading a government that’s taken much more seriously abroad.

It’s also worth pointing out that there’s really not much of a difference between Likud, Kadima, and Labor on matters relating to the Palestinian question. We tend to see relatively minor disagreements as being bigger than they really are, mostly because we’re inclined to agree with Israel. But in the same sense that a right-winger doesn’t really care about, say, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s competing healthcare plans because he doesn’t like either one, and because Obama and Clinton are exponentially closer to each other than they are to our hypothetical wingnut, the Palestinians, and the larger Arab world for that matter, don’t really care if Livni opposes even “natural growth” in the settlements or Ehud Barak expresses an openness to removing them as a part of some eventual peace process, rather they see a political process in which none of the major competitors are willing to call for the dismantling of the West Bank settlements, or any other serious concession on Israel’s part to bring about a viable two state solution.