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Friday, August 21, 2009

Israeli cabinet shakeup coming?

Someone sent me a link to this article (via another blogger who was asked to email me - sorry) and asked me to comment on it.
Sources close to the administration said Obama has received messages that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could order a Cabinet shakeup and restructuring of his coalition over the next few weeks. They said the shakeup would be sparked by the indictment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on corruption charges, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Senior administration officials have been told that the indictment of Lieberman is imminent and then everything will change," a source close to the White House said.

The sources said the White House has been closely monitoring political developments in Netanyahu's Cabinet amid tense relations between Jerusalem and Washington. They said Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House senior adviser David Axelrod have received daily reports on the stability of the Israeli government ahead of U.S. plans to release a Middle East peace initiative in September 2009.

"The administration has concluded that the only way out of the settlement deadlock is for an expansion of the Israeli government coalition by centrist elements," the source said.

Under the scenario relayed to the White House, Lieberman would resign from office immediately after his indictment. At that point, the sources said, Netanyahu would invite the opposition Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, to join the coalition.

The sources said some members of Kadima, particularly chairman Tzipi Livni, were not expected to join the Netanyahu government. But the majority of the 28-member Kadima parliamentary faction, led by Ms. Livni's rival, Shaul Mofaz, would enter the coalition and replace some of the right-wing ministers.

Under the scenario, Mofaz would be appointed defense minister, the sources said. The current defense minister, Ehud Barak, regarded as the most fervent supporter of Obama in Netanyahu's Cabinet, was expected to agree to assume the post of foreign minister.
This is complete and utter nonsense and if the White House actually believes this, they are even stupider than I gave them credit for being. This article reflects a total lack of understanding of how this country works.

First, it will be months before anyone even considers indicting Lieberman. Ehud Olmert's investigations are much further along and were top priority so long as he was in power - and he still hasn't been indicted for anything. There is no way Lieberman is going to be indicted 'over the next few weeks.'

Second, Lieberman may have said he was going to resign, but he's not legally required to resign (and certainly not immediately) and he won't resign if it means that Ehud Barak is going to become foreign minister. If Lieberman resigns, it is far more likely that Danny Ayalon, Lieberman's deputy and an experienced diplomat who is already fulfilling a lot of the foreign minister's functions, will become foreign minister. Ayalon also happens to be close with Netanyahu (did you think it was a coincidence that they showed up together at last year's bloggers conference?).

Third, Mofaz isn't rushing to leave Kadima to go back to the Likud - and certainly not to start his own party. Parties with seven MK's tend to disappear in the next election, and MK's who join a much larger faction this early in a government's term tend to get frozen out when the next election rolls around.

Fourth, if seven members of Kadima join the government or join the Likud and the result is the kind of shakeup described here, Yisrael Beiteinu will likely go into opposition, as will Jewish Home and maybe even Shas. The Yaalon faction of Likud may well leave and go to National Union (which is not in the government). Even if Netanyahu were to then bring in the entire Kadima faction (which is still unlikely because Livni would want at least a rotation in the Prime Minister's office), he couldn't form an effective coalition. And he'd totally lose the Likud to Feiglin's faction the next time out.

In sum, this is all VERY unlikely. If Emanuel and Axelrod are actually being fed this nonsense, they ought to get some more reliable sources of information.


At 10:09 AM, Blogger Findalis said...

It seems more like wishful thinking on Obama's part. He needs a person in the Cabinet that will shake and cry out in horror at the sound of his words next month when he unveils his Middle East destroy Israel proposal.

It is too bad for him that Netanyahu has grown a set of balls, brass ones at that.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Obumbler's scenario is about as likely as Tzipi Livni becoming Foreign Minister. As though she'd want the job again! While Kadima may split at some point, the odds of the current coalition disintegrating are slim to none. Israeli governments don't tend to lose their cohesion for awhile. Even the first Netanyahu government survived for three years in office. Its going to be a long time before the One sees hopenchange come to Israel!


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