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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Heartbreak: 'National unity' government?

JPost has gone out on a limb this morning and is reporting that a 'national unity' government between Likud and Kadima - which Netanyahu said he preferred all along - is all but a done deal.
Privately, senior Kadima officials said they were well aware that Peres would ask Netanyahu to form a government because of the Right bloc's 65-55 advantage over the Left, and that if Likud offered Kadima a sweet deal, they should take it.

Netanyahu's associates revealed that he would be willing to give Kadima the same number of ministries as the Likud, including two of the top four cabinet positions. Likud would get the premiership and the Treasury, while Kadima could be given the Foreign and Defense ministries.

"We're ready to be very generous to Kadima in plum portfolios and power, to lock them into our government," a source close to Netanyahu said.

"You have to pay a price to get that kind of stability, and I think he would be willing to pay a heavy price."
That would mean Livni as foreign minister and Shaul Mofaz as defense minister. You all know my feelings about Livni's incompetence as foreign minister. As to Mofaz, he was the defense minister who fired Boogie Yaalon and carried out the expulsion of Gaza's Jews. There's no love lost for him on the right, even though many on the left would consider him more right than left.

By the way, if this happens, I see Avigdor Lieberman - who is being interviewed right now on Israel Radio - out of the coalition. Likud and Kadima will end up with about 56 seats between them (Likud is expected to gain another seat when the soldiers' votes are counted) and they won't need Yisrael Beiteinu, which will demand a premium ministry. More likely they'll take Shas and United Torah Judaism, which will have far fewer demands.

The curveball is that Netanyahu and Livni could go together to Barak and try to convince him to join the government and become defense minister. Barak is far more popular than Mofaz and I think he'd find the offer irresistible. Then they wouldn't need anyone else and it would make President Hopenchange happy.

All of this won't start until February 18 because that's when the final results will be published and President Peres is keeping to the letter of the law, which requires that he not start interviewing parties until then.


At 8:41 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - this is what Bibi has wanted all along - with himself in charge of course. I can see Kadima going along because after all they are a party of pure opportunists. And if Kadima comes in as a partner, odds are good Labor will also join as it doesn't want to be the odd party left out of the government.

Of course, Tzipi Livni could just prefer to bide her time in the opposition and just let Bibi self-destruct as he did in his first term as Prime Minister.

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I don't think Livni wants to do that, because in two years there wouldn't be a 'peace process' left. And she's going to get a lot of pressure from Peres to go into the coalition.

Chaim Ramon was on the radio last hour and said that if Likud doesn't approach them until after they've formed a coalition (which is what he thinks will happen), they will go to the opposition. But Ramon is one of the losers from Olmert's 'forced retirement.' He is nowhere near as close with Livni and is unlikely to get a senior ministry in a national unity government. Especially given that he's a convicted sex offender and she's a woman.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - I don't think she really wants to play second fiddle to Bibi and provide a political alibi for his policies. She has no guarantee that she will be a spokesperson for any other than his policies. It just doesn't appeal to her to have to suck up again to a man when she thought she was done with it all.

But for the sake of appearances, she'll give Bibi's offer "utmost careful consideration" and if the pot isn't sweetened enough to her liking, she'll opt to stay out of the government.

At 9:37 AM, Blogger LB said...

I also don't get the feeling that Livni is a lasting figure on the political scene. The likelihood of her making a comeback will be severely diminished is she does not distinguish herself as a leader, and allows herself to be Bibi's sidekick.

For Bibi (not necessarily for Likud in the long run), her joining might be good thing. He gives away Defense - the PM really determine defense policy anyway, and Foreign - usually more of a spokesperson for the government than anything else. And he keeps his baby - finance, giving it to whomever he nominates as his puppet. But you raised good points - I think he would have to find a way to prevent Mofaz from getting defense, though. Who's left?

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I think LB's right - Livni is dead in the water without a ministry. All the stuff you hear about how Kadima won the election is spin being put out by her media consultants. She won but the party lost. The reason for that is the way Livni ran her campaign: She appealed directly to women, most of whom came from Meretz, and she attacked the Left saying a vote for anyone else was a vote for Likud. So Kadima sucked votes off Labor and Meretz and got nothing from - and barely attacked - Likud and Lieberman.

If Kadima's MK's have to sit on the opposition benches with no ministries and no patronage, they're going to take it out on her. She'll be gone within a year unless the government collapses very quickly. Don't expect the government to collapse quickly. Look how long Olmert lasted.


Mofaz is number 2 on Kadima's slate and there's very little chance it will go below him. They could give Kadima Finance and keep Defense for Boogie Yaalon, but if they did that Bibi would have no control over the economy. Kadima has no one qualified for Finance with the possible exception of Livni herself, and she really wants foreign affairs.

I disagree with your assessment of the foreign ministry. No ministry has done more damage to this country over the last 15 years than the foreign ministry. Think about it: Shimon Peres, Shlomo Ben Ami, Tzipi Livni - each of them managed to push their own foreign policy that wasn't necessarily in accord with the Prime Minister. Sure the Prime Minister has to sign at the end of the day, but remember the look on Rabin's face when he shook hands with Arafat? And he still did it....

At 10:43 AM, Blogger LB said...

Carl - about Mofaz, you're absolutely right. I don't for a second actually think he could be passed over for defense if it went to Kadima. I think Bibi realizes that, too, which raises a few questions. How serious is he in trying to woo Kadima? I'm really not sure. If so - can he reneg on his promise of 2 SENIOR positions? That, I think, has a higher likelihood of happening. Passing off education or interior and maybe even Knesset chairmanship and holding onto defense and finance.

For the most part, I see what you're saying and you're right about foreign affairs, too. I don't agree about Livni - not because I think she did a good job, but because I think she did not deviate from the course set by Olmert. I may have misled myself by only really remembering the period since 2001. Which is not to say, it will not regain its (potentially harmful) independence.

And Rabin... exactly. Hopefully Bibi is on the tail end of a successful campaign to avoid another such crippling rivalry a-la Rabin-Peres (with Silvan Shalom).

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Daled Amos said...

Do you think Netanyahu is trying to pull an Obama with Livni playing Hillary?


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