By Larry Gordon
Just as we managed to adjust to the damage and hardship brought on by Hurricane Sandy, so are we adjusting to the reelection of Barack Obama and another four years of his liberal, left-wing worldview with which he will attempt an American makeover.
But no sooner than one election campaign fades into the past does another one–this one taking place in Israel on January 22–beat a path in our direction. Conventional wisdom up until very recently said that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a shoo-in to garner a dramatic majority in the Knesset, thereby continuing the agenda and promoting policies that have been the hallmark of his government these last few years.
But wait a minute. We may be jumping ahead of ourselves, since the mood and direction of the Israeli electorate is even more unpredictable than in the political and electoral system here in the U.S. With Israel’s election less than two weeks away, nothing seems assured or definite. The possibilities and combinations of parties to form a ruling coalition in Israel’s parliamentary system seem as endless as the possible arrangements of an old Rubik’s cube.
Most likely, the new party partners of Netanyahu’s Likud and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu will combine for about 38 seats in the new Knesset. They have to therefore attract another 23 members in order to be able to form a working and successful coalition with the flimsiest one-seat majority of 61 in the 120-member Knesset.
The natural allies of Likud-Beiteinu to form such a coalition would be Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi, which is expected to garner somewhere between 11 and 16 seats, and Shas, under the co-leadership of Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri, who are anticipated to score between 9 and 11 seats in the new Knesset.
There is, however, a movement afoot from both within and without the Netanyahu-Lieberman camp to position the government more to the political center so that, at least from the all-important American perspective, the new Israeli government does not generate an image of anti-two-state, pro-settlement-building, which will constantly be at odds with President Obama’s government for the next four years.
The storyline has Livni (projected at 9 seats) joining with Labor’s Shelley Yacomovich (projected to win 18) and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid (with 9 seats) for a total of 36. The hope is that those three parties can then somehow entice Shas, UTJ, and HaBayit HaYehudi–with a projected combined 27 seats–to join in this imaginary and seemingly impossible coalition for a total of 63 seats. While this scenario is a formula that could lead to unseating Benjamin Netanyahu, it is a grouping that could not sit together or agree on how to govern the State of Israel for more than a few days.
So what are some of the other possibilities? The most likely scenario is a significantly right-leaning government with Netanyahu at the helm along with Lieberman as deputy prime minister, once he is able to extricate himself from his current legal difficulties. A strong rightist coalition would consist of Likud-Beiteinu (35 seats), HaBayit HaYehudi (13 seats), Shas (10), and Yesh Atid (9). There is the additional possibility that some of the smaller parties that may achieve some success in the elections, like Aryeh Eldad and Michel Ben Ari’s Otsama party (3 seats) and possibly Chaim Amsalem’s AmShalem Party (2 seats) could make it an even stronger 72-person governing coalition.
An additional possibility is that United Torah Judaism joins this same coalition with their 6 Knesset mandates, giving Netanyahu a 77-seat mandate. One of the more glaring open questions is how the inherent conflicts that exist between the philosophies of Yesh Atid and Shas or UTJ–particularly on the matter of national service for chareidim–can be reconciled so they can sit together in one government.
For now, Lapid of Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”) says he will not join a Netanyahu-led coalition so long as Livni makes the same commitment, thereby conceivably strengthening the opposition, if nothing else. Livni so far has not made such a commitment, and reports are that she has been conducting talks with Likud representatives about her Hatenuah Party joining the ruling coalition.
Tzipi Livni, many political pundits have stated unabashedly, is first and foremost for Tzipi Livni. Bear in mind that she was a stalwart rightist member of Likud until former PM Ariel Sharon broke away and formed the now almost non-existent Kadima Party. Pollsters believe that Kadima will not attract enough votes in the election to qualify for any representation in the Knesset.
Livni then became foreign minister in the Kadima government led by Ehud Olmert after Sharon took ill. As foreign minister she reshaped herself as a pro-peace quasi-leftist in order to curry favor with the U.S. and Europe, deceiving most into believing that, as opposed to Netanyahu, she was in favor of or capable of delivering a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Her designs were to position herself as prime minister someday.
This delusional approach continues to be offered by both Livni and Labor’s Yacomovich. To take a step back and support a coalition with either Livni or Yacomovich serving as prime minister is tempting, if for no other reason than to illustrate how their peace rhetoric is really a way to disguise their political deception. Neither one of these personalities is capable of or willing to deliver the type of agreement that the Arab side of the equation believes that Israel can be forced into by international pressure.
Yes, it is true that despite a commitment to the contrary, Livni held extensive talks with her Palestinian counterparts about dividing Jerusalem during the damaging and sorrowful Olmert years. But while Olmert claimed that Jerusalem was not up for discussion, the then-prime minister was not exactly known for either telling the truth or being true to a commitment of any sort so long as it did not benefit him personally.
To her credit (by some twisted diplomatic logic) Livni entered into those discussions on Jerusalem in order to demonstrate the lack of realism and the intractable position of the Arab side on this very sensitive matter.
Here is the thing about the left in Israel today–they are not really as left as Barack Obama would like to think. No one is willing or capable to divide the city of Jerusalem after 45 years of successful and fair Israeli rule. None of these would-be leaders is capable of moving 250,000 Israelis out of their homes in the settlement communities to hand over additional territory to enemies like Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and Iran.
This idea, as proclaimed last week by President Shimon Peres, that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is the only man that Israel can sign a peace deal with, stretches the limits of absurd thinking. Since when is peace that is supposed to last for years or generations something that only one unpopular elderly man can agree to, while the overwhelming population he purports to represent rejects such a notion? What this amounts to is election-year bluster that has no foundation.
What Israel needs following the coming election and on the heels of the Obama victory in the U.S., combined with the administration’s new foreign-policy team, is something both novel and unique in the Israeli—Palestinian process. And that is truth. If Israeli leaders would stick to reality and be honest about Israel’s place in the world and about the near-dead peace process, the international community would not know how to respond. First and foremost, Netanyahu has to backtrack on his commitment to two states.
It will be a difficult thing to do and he will be subjected to blistering criticism from the left at home as well as from the U.S. and Europe. But it is true and will be both eye-opening and liberating for Israel. Two states is not workable. HaBayit HaYehudi leader Naftali Bennett has clearly said so and his popularity continues to increase. Additionally, it has to be stated that Jews are like people anywhere else in the world (it’s tragic that this is still news, but it is) and that Jews have a right to live anywhere. And this is especially so in the land of Israel.
Netanyahu will be surrounded by the right people in order to make these important and courageous pronouncements going forward. In his own Likud he has Avigdor Lieberman, Uzi Landau (of Yisrael Beiteinu) Zev Elkin, Gilad Erdan, Yuli Edelstein, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, and Moshe Feiglin–all right-thinking Jews committed to truth and reality.
If Bibi wants to move Israel forward, he has to stop flirting with the political deceivers and double-talkers who continually set Israel back with their dishonesty. Yes, the Arabs and the Israelis have to learn to live together, and there are many ways to accomplish that goal. Political deception as an electoral platform is not one of them. v
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