Now, the horse trading starts: Likud-Lapid-Bennett and... Livni?
Jonathan Tobin sees a coalition of Likud, Yesh Atid (Lapid), Jewish Home (Naftali Bennett). That would be 61 already. He also sees Tzipi Livni going in. The Haredi parties would be left outside
in this scenario.
Though many, especially in the foreign press, tended to lump Lapid in
with Labor as part of a center-left faction, his positions on security
and defense issues are quite compatible with those of Netanyahu. His
vote cannot be interpreted as a pro-peace protest against Netanyahu.
Rather, it is very much in a long tradition of Israeli parties that
capitalized on secular resentment against the power of the
ultra-Orthodox parties. He ought to be able to exact a high price from
Netanyahu, but there’s little doubt the prime minister will be happy to
pay it since Lapid might be easier to deal with than the political
extortionists at Shas and United Torah Judaism that are always available
to sell their votes to the highest bidders.
As for Bennett, his total fell short of his highest poll numbers. But
he is still in a very strong position. His 12 seats make him an
essential part of any coalition led by Netanyahu. He will act as a brake
on any possible lurch to the left on the peace process, but given the
lack of interest on the part of the Palestinian Authority in returning
to negotiations, its doubtful that he has much to worry about. Moreover,
his religious Zionist party won’t have any trouble supporting a change
in the draft laws to ensure more Haredim serve in the army.
Another potential member of the next government would be Tzipi Livni.
Her new Hatnua Party won approximately seven seats. There’s no love
lost between Livni and Netanyahu, but if she refuses to join a coalition
that already included Lapid, she would be effectively marginalized.
That’s something Livni probably wouldn’t be able to stand. Of all the
party leaders, she is the one left with the toughest choice.
One party that is unlikely to join Netanyahu would be Labor, which
finished a disappointing third. Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich knows
that the only hope to build her party back to its position as one of
Israel’s two biggest is by leading the opposition in the next Knesset.
She will stand aside this time and hold onto the not-unreasonable hope
that she will do far better the next time.
There will be those who will portray these numbers as something of a
rebuke to Netanyahu, and there is something to that. But as I wrote a
couple of weeks ago, his biggest problem in this vote was that he
couldn’t lose. Since the lack of a serious alternative to him made his
re-election a certainty, voters were free to support smaller parties
rather than the Likud and therefore register their preference for the
kind of coalition he would lead. Though Netanyahu would have liked to
have a bigger total for Likud, he can’t be disappointed with the bottom
line of this vote: he remains prime minister and will be able to pick
and choose his coalition partners. The next government will be fractious
and difficult to manage but for all of his problems, Netanyahu remains
the only possible choice to be prime minister for the foreseeable
What could go wrong?
Labels: Binyamin Netanyahu, Jewish Home party, Knesset elections 2013, Likud party, Naftali Bennett, Shas, Tzipi Livni, United Torah Judaism party, Yair Lapid