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Eight quick takes on Israel’s canceled election and new unity government

by Shmuel Rosner

May 8, 2012 | 12:55 am

Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz (Photo: Reuters)

Don’t ever underestimate Israeli politics’ ability to surprise you. I was at the ‎Prime Minister’s Office yesterday on some unrelated business, and there was no ‎sense of looming decisions, no feeling of shifting winds. I was working with ‎Prof. Camil Fuchs on our next installment of our new Israel Election Trends ‎feature. Then I woke up in the morning and Israel has new coalition of 94 – 94! ‎‎– Knesset members. ‎

The Patriotic view: This is good for Israel. No one really understood why Israel ‎needed an election, no one really wanted this election. It was going to be a ‎waste of money, time and energy on an election that would change nothing. So ‎now it has been canceled. And Israel has a vast coalition that can really achieve ‎something, can legislate and rule, can make necessary hard choices. Good for ‎Israel. ‎

The Skeptic’s View: Kadima was going to crash. Shaul Mofaz, the head of ‎Kadima, was going nowhere. He could not connect with the voters, he was ‎going to ruin his party – he had no choice but to swallow this very bitter pill to ‎survive. This is nothing but a desperate attempt by Mofaz to postpone the voters’ ‎verdict, in the hope that something will change by fall 2013. Mofaz, not long ago, ‎branded Netanyahu a “liar”, and said that Netanyahu and Defense Minister ‎Barak are “dangerous” to Israel. He is not their new accomplice. Bad for him, bad ‎for Israel’s political system in which the public has good reason not to have any ‎faith.‎

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The Admiring View: Netanyahu proved, yet again, that in this incarnation as ‎Prime Minister he had mastered the art of Israeli politics. He is now in the league ‎of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres – by the way, President ‎Peres congratulated Netanyahu for forming a unity government, maybe ‎because he believes it is good for Israel, maybe because he just can’t resist an ‎inkling of admiration for this master stroke.‎

The Conspiratorial View: They are going to attack Iran, aren’t they? It is all ‎about the consensus necessary for such move and the consequent war. True: ‎Mofaz said he was against attacking Iran, but he has already proved his ability to ‎quickly change his mind. Mofaz said he’d never leave the Likud Party, and then ‎left for Kadima. He also said he’d not join the coalition and now is doing exactly ‎that. He also said that his goal is to replace Netanyahu. So it must be about Iran.‎

The Optimistic View: Finally, Israel is going to change its electoral system. ‎Finally, Israel is going to draft Haredi youngsters into military service and end ‎the ridiculous arrangement of paying them to study in Yeshivot (The Pessimistic ‎View: Netanyahu already promised Haredi politicians that new legislation will is ‎not meant to hurt their constituency. He is not going to ruin his long term ‎relations with Haredi parties. True, the election was postponed, but it is still no ‎more than a year and a half away).‎

The Politically-Minded View: Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich said this morning ‎that this is the end of Kadima. I think she’s probably right. Labor is going to gain ‎from this move – it is the only viable opposition to Netanyahu today. Yair Lapid is ‎a big loser – he will have to wait on the sidelines for a very long time. And the ‎biggest loser: Tzipi Livni. Why was she in such haste to resign from the ‎Knesset? Why was she in such hurry to leave? If she were still a member of the ‎parliament, she could have split Kadima and become an alternative again. Now, ‎she’ll also have to wait for a very long time. ‎

The Economically-Minded View: Israel needs a new budget and will now get ‎one without much fight. Netanyahu will be able to do what’s necessary, without ‎having to bargain and cave and compromise. The tiny opposition will scream ‎and cry, the opposition from within the coalition will try to raise hell, but with a coalition of 94 ‎‎– 94! – no one will really be able to force Netanyahu into caving to sectorial ‎demands and populist stipulations.‎

The Baffled View: Say what? The election has been canceled? ‎

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