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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A curveball from Washington?

Writing at the Daily Beast, former CBS News correspondent Dan Raviv anticipates that the Hopenchange administration in Washington will attempt to ensure that Tzipora Livni (Kadima, 28 seats) is given the first opportunity to form a coalition (Hat Tip: Hot Air).
Israeli President Shimon Peres gets to choose who gets first crack at forming a government. He might have to bow to the realities of coalition-building if Netanyahu can prove that he has more than 60 newly elected Knesset members ready to back him. But Peres is a longtime Labor leader who later sat with Livni and Ehud Olmert in the still-comatose Ariel Sharon’s Kadima-led government.

Peres may want to give Livni every possible chance to form the next government and become prime minister. And that’s precisely what Barack Obama would like.
But in Israel this morning, the word is that Israeli diplomats in Washington are already trying to explain to the Obama administration what happened and anticipating a right-leaning coalition led by the Likud's Binyamin Netanyahu (27 seats). That's because Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman (15 seats) has already signaled that he will recommend Netanyahu be given the first opportunity to form a coalition. And with Shas (11 seats), United Torah Judaism (5 seats), National Union (4 seats) and Jewish Home (3 seats) all expected to recommend Netanyahu, Peres will be told by 64 of Israel's 120 MK's that Netanyahu should be given the first opportunity. (The numbers I am using are from an 8:00 am Israel Radio report with 98% of the polling stations counted - the only change you might have noticed is that Yisrael Beiteinu is back to 15. The 2% that remain to be counted are mostly IDF and foreign service ballots. The IDF ballots are rumored to be heavily tilted to the right and include far more ballots than the foreign service).

Even the leftist Haaretz newspaper admits that Netanyahu is likely to get the first shot (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
However, the exit polls also indicate that Likud is in a better position than Kadima to lead a coalition because of a strong showing by other nationalist parties.

"I've spoken to party leaders," Netanyahu said, "and we have agreed to begin negotiations on forming a new government as soon as tomorrow."

"Even if exit polls are accurate, there is no doubt regarding the only conclusion they point to: the Israeli people have said their word in a clear fashion, the nationalist bloc, led by Likud, won a clear victory," Netanyahu added.

"The question is not what the polls say. The question is what the reality is. From this day on, the right wing bloc rises to an absolute majority in the Knesset," the Likud chair went on to say.

"There is no doubt regarding our own movement's meteoric rise. In the last Knesset we had only 12 seats, 10% of the Knesset. We have more than doubled our power and grown more than any other party," Netanyahu continued.

"The rise of the right-wing camp and the Likud can only mean one thing, the people want change," Netanyahu exclaimed. "The people want one path. Our path won and it will lead the people."
According to Israel Radio, Netanyahu will meet with Shas' Eli Yishai at 12:30 this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Kadima is trying to push a 'national unity' government with (Minister Meir Sheetrit in an Israel Radio interview this morning) or without ('senior members' of Kadima) a rotation in the top spot. That seems very unlikely right now. And in another Israel Radio interview this morning, the Likud's Sylvan Shalom (former foreign minister and one of the more left-leaning MK's in the Likud) rejected outright the idea of a rotation between Netanyahu and Livni in the top spot.

Netanyahu seems likely to take the top spot and form a coalition. The Right took 64 seats in the Knesset to 46 for the Jewish Left and 10 for the Arabs. If there's a curveball coming from Washington, it seems likely to break outside. Even The One cannot overcome the domestic realities here. I'll discuss what that means for our relations with Washington in a later post.


At 8:23 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - I don't think Washington has grasped yet what really happened in Israel. They and the Arabs want to continue to deal with the world like nothing has changed.

It has and Israel will follow what she sees in her own national interests rather than doing whatever has to be done to please America even if those are not necessarily in her best interests.

The Israeli Left has imploded and there's a new reality to be taken into consideration whether the US and the rest of the world likes it or not.

At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman, the Israeli extreme left has imploded, replaced by a complacent central Israel which blows with the wind.

Netanyahu is just the lesser of 2 evils. He will be slapped silly by Obama admin pressures.

Lieberman is an opportunist. Some of his ideas of dealing with the Arabs could have come from Livni's little girl's diary.

SHAS will do anything for money. Think Oslo.

So nothing much has really happened. Be prepared for the same old same old, though not as bad as a Labor or Kadimah lead government.

The situation is very frail.

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Gary Rosen said...

"Carl - I don't think Washington has grasped yet what really happened in Israel."

No kidding - they don't even grasp what's happening in America! (sorry to go OT but I couldn't resist)

At 4:02 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Maybe, ShyGuy. I would love better alternatives. I don't see them - do you? We're not going to get a dream national religious government any time soon so those are the cards Israel is dealt with. All we can hope is Bibi plays them a lot better than he did the first time around and that is why the voters placed him on probation.


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