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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bibi's brinksmanship?

On Monday, I reported that Tzipi Livni and Kadima had reached an agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman on most issues, and that the Labor and Meretz parties - at whose expense Kadima won the most votes in last Tuesday's election - were furious. How furious are they? It looks like the Likud and Binyamin Netanyahu are betting that they are angry enough to recommend to President Peres that Netanyahu form the next government, or at least not to make a recommendation at all.
Likud officials called Lieberman's demands for the position of foreign or defense minister "insolent", and one official said, "There is no obligation for a party with 15 mandates to earn one of the larger ministerial positions. There is no precedent for this and it's unclear why Lieberman thinks he deserves this."

As President Shimon Peres prepares to assign the office of prime minister to either Livni or Netanyahu, the Likud has postulated that if Labor does not recommend Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to the president and Lieberman refrains from recommending Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu's power would considerably weaken. Thus there is no need to grovel before Lieberman, officials reasoned.
Recall from Monday night that Labor is pretty ticked off at Livni.
Responding to the agreement, Labor MKs Eitan Cabel and Ophir Paz-Pines on Monday evening slammed Kadima.

"The fraud called Kadima is now being exposed to the world," said Labor's Secretary-General Cabel. "If the left-wingers who gave their vote to [Kadima leader Tzipi] Livni would have known that they'd wake up in the morning and discover they were in bed with [Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman, they would have demanded their votes back."

Paz-Pines elaborated. "Whoever feared that Kadima is just another Likud is now discovering that it is actually another Israel Beiteinu. Instead of being an alternative to the Right as she promised, Livni is bowing and groveling before Lieberman."

"It seems as though nothing in the world scares her more than the notion of sitting in the opposition," he added.
How does this sound as a scenario: Labor recommends no one to Peres while Lieberman recommends Livni. No one else other than Kadima recommends Livni to Peres so Kadima has 43 MK's (28 + 15) recommending it. Shas, United Torah Judaism, Jewish Home, National Union and Likud itself all recommend Netanyahu giving Likud 27 + 11 + 5 + 3 + 4 = 50 MK's. Netanyahu gets the task.

It turns out (in my scenario) that Netanyahu has already quietly agreed with Labor (13 MK's) that Labor will go into the government and that Barak will be Defense Minister. Labor would have to sit with National Union, but the truth is that any such government's security policies are going to be much closer to National Union's than to Labor's anyway. A survey showed yesterday that 55% of the country wants Barak to be Defense Minister, so Barak can portray this as putting the nation's interest ahead of the party's. It has the added advantage to Barak of keeping him from being thrown out as party head - why would the Labor party want to throw a senior government minister out of his position as party head?

And while the same survey showed that 65% of the country wants a 'national unity' government, Bibi can blame it all on Livni, whose insistence on 'at least' a rotating Prime Minister - and her helping Yisrael Beiteinu to up its demands - torpedoed the national unity government.

Sweet, isn't it? You heard it here first.


At 10:17 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. Ehud Barak would get to take revenge against Livni for double-crossing him. Bibi gets to bring the Left into his government while sidelining Kadima and Israel Beiteinu. Labor has just a fewer seats than IB and it so happens no one wants Amir Peretz back and Barak's interests are not served being in the opposition.

Ah - the many twists and turns of Israeli coalition-building!


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