This Government

Posted: March 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The weeks leading to Passover are always the busiest of the year for Israeli newspapers, mine included, so I don’t get to update the blog as often as I would like to.

Naturally, the big political news of the week is Labor joining the Likud government. I discussed more than once the possibility of Kadima joining Netanyahu, but to most people’s surprise, Tzipi Livni stood firm, and left the Likud with an extreme right wing coalition. Netanyahu’s conclusion from his failed first term in the PM’s office was that this sort of government can’t survive, so he did everything in his power to have Labor as his left cushion. And still, he would have never made it unless the man at the head of the Labor party was Ehud Barak.

Barak never cared much for parliamentary work, and is currently interested in only two positions: PM and Defense Minister. So there was a good chance to begin with, that he would join any government which will be willing to take him in. But what’s more important is that Barak is, in essence, a right wing man, and closer in his views to Liberman than to most of the young MKs in his party. He strongly believes there is no partner on the Palestinian side to negotiate with, and he holds a Netanyahu-style free market ideology (though the truth is he doesn’t care much for the economy). So for him, the only question remained whether or not he’d be able to take the rest of the party along with him. On Tuesday he won the first battle, but there will be more to come. Furthermore, Barak’s victory came thanks to the support of union-leader Ofer Eini, who became the real strongman in the party. Eini will be calling the shots from now on.

The Netanyahu-Liberman-Barak government won’t have it easy. Labor only gives Netanyahu 6-7 votes he can count on, and even these MKs will be under constant pressure from the left. Every time a new neighborhood in the West Bank will be built, they will have to defend their presence in the government. In the same time, Netanyahu will be attacked from the right for not fulfilling his right wing ideology. The mystery man will be Liberman: his actions – as well as his statements – can determine the fate of this government. It is no secret that Liberman dreams of leading the Right – possibly as the head of a united Likud-Israel Beitenu party – so Netanyahu has something to worry about there as well.

The bottom line is this: Netanyahu did what he could. His gamble on Barak paid off. Still, his government will have trouble surviving pressure – real pressure – from the US on the Palestinian issue. Netanyahu knows that, and he already started paying his lips service to the non-existing peace process. Whether this will be enough for Obama remains to be seen.

2 Comments on “This Government”

  1. 1 Aviv said at 12:01 pm on March 26th, 2009:

    How likely do you think the following scenarios are:
    A. Some national crisis – Livni joins gov’t under Bibi (may include some sort of rotation). I’m especially interested to know if the agreements did eventually include some sort of leeway for this to happen – They were constantly talking about it in the news.
    B. Bibi’s coalition disintegrates, Livni gets tapped to start a new one instead with the current Knesset
    C. New elections within 2 years
    D. The Left reorganizes to provide a stronger opposition
    E. Labor maintains public trust and maintains its current # of seats for the next elections.

    My folks voted Labor even though I told them not to. Needless to say, they were very disappointed in Barak.

  2. 2 noam said at 1:41 am on March 27th, 2009:

    A. from what I know, the agreement Netanyahu made with Israel Beitenu included articles relating to the possibility of Kadima joining the government. The one with Labor has no such thing (and it makes sense, since Netanyahu wanter either Labor or Kadima but not both). That leads me to believe that if Livni enters the government, it will be only after Labor leaves it. It’s possible, but not very likely.

    B. To form a government Livni will have to reach an agreement with Labor. That won’t happen while Barak is there. But suppose Labor gets out of the government for some reason, Barak leaves, the government disintegrates – in that case, Livni might want to bet on a Kadima-Labor-Shas-Israel Beitenu government. But Liberman might prefer elections, since Netanyahu is gone… So again, this scenario is possible, but not likely.

    C. Possible, some might say even likely. It all depends on the WH. Pressure from Washington brought down Shamir in 92′ and Netanyahu in 99′. It might happen again.

    D. There is no Left. Kadima is a party of former Likud members, and Labor is doomed. In the long run, though, I have a feeling that we will see an Arab-Jewish left wing (non-Zionists+parts of Meretz and Labor) , a big center (remains of Meretz and Labor, Kadima, Likud, parts of Israel Beitenu), and the Right. In a sense, it’s already happening.

    E. With Labor anything can happen, but the feeling is that we haven’t seen the worst yet. It is not clear whether Barak will be able to keep the party together, and Kadima is gradually taking it’s place. What’s not discussed so much is the fact that Labor has an enormous debt: something like 160 Million NIS, prior to the last elections, which probably made things worse for them. It is almost impossible to rebuild the party under these conditions. What can happen is some sort of union: with Meretz or Kadima. Naturally, this can only happen with Barak out of the way.