Israeli Government Update

by Brien Jackson

It turns out that, as predicted, Bibi Netanyahu will get the first crack at forming a government and, also as predicted, that he’d prefer to partner with Kadima and Labor than with Avigdor Lieberman and the rest of the right-wing:

In a brief but statesmanlike speech at the presidential residence on Friday afternoon, Mr. Netanyahu accepted the mandate and immediately called on the centrist Kadima Party, led by Tzipi Livni, and the center-left Labor Party, led by Ehud Barak, to join him in a unity government. He said national unity was necessary in order for Israel to contend with the formidable challenges ahead. […]

Ms. Livni, the current foreign minister and Mr. Netanyahu’s main rival for the premiership, has so far refused the idea of joining a government led by Mr. Netanyahu and including several ultra-orthodox and far-right parties. Committed to the peace process with the Palestinians, she has said she would rather go into the opposition than serve as a fig-leaf for a coalition of the right.

Mr. Barak, whose Labor Party fared badly in the elections, has already said he would heed the will of the people and head into the opposition.

Naturally some people are postulating that this is very bad news for Bibi, but I don’t really think so. At the end of the day he’s still holding most of the cards, and Livni just doesn’t have very many. Yes she can dig in her heels and hope that Bibi either really doesn’t want a united right-wing government, or is unable to unite the right-wing parties, but then what? Peres asks her to take a crack, and she doesn’t have anywhere to go to form a majority coalition without the right-wing parties. So unless she’s going to ask Avigdor Lieberman to come into a coalition with Kadima, Labor, the left-wing parties, and at least one of the ultra orthodox right-wing parties, where is she getting a majority coalition from?

It should also be noted that denoting a right-wing government as a “narrow” one really isn’t all that appropriate in this circumstance. The bottom line is that the right-wing parties really did garner a lot of votes in the last election. Adding in the fact that the only non-right-wing party with any substantial mandates is Kadima, which operates on the center-right, and you have an electorate that has swung very much to the right, and would be at least marginally well represented by a right-wing coalition at the moment.

So Livni can certainly gum up the works if she wants to, but it seems unlikely to me that she can really do much beyond causing Bibi some sort-term headaches by dragging out the negotiations as long as possible. But at the end of the day, Bibi is going to be Prime Minister.