May 8, 2012
Eight quick takes on Israel’s canceled election and new unity government
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.
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?