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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Tie goes to Bibi?

With the elections beginning to look close, people are starting to look past Tuesday night to the process of government formation. Let me explain to you how the process works so that you will appreciate the story that follows more.

After the elections, each party that wins seats in the Knesset is invited to visit the President (Shimon Peres) and to recommend someone - the leader of one of the large parties - to attempt to form a coalition. Generally, the President will give the party that won the most seats in the election the opportunity to form a coalition, but that is not always the case. There is another factor the President can take into account: which side (right or left) won the most seats in the election.

The surveys currently show Likud with a slight lead over Kadima and the right with a clear lead over the left (around 71-49). Binyamin Netanyahu, in a bid to gain back votes from the smaller parties to the right of the Likud, has been claiming that there is no assurance that even if he wins the election, he will be called upon to form the government. A Jerusalem Post survey this morning says otherwise.
A final poll taken for Channel 10 on Friday, before a moratorium on surveys took effect, found that Likud's lead over Kadima had fallen to only two seats. The Dialog poll gave Likud 27 seats, Kadima 25, Israel Beiteinu 19 and Labor 14.

With Tuesday's race so close and with both Netanyahu and Livni claiming that they want to lead a "wide national-unity government," attention turned to whom Peres will call upon to form a coalition.

According to Basic Law: The President, "following elections to the Knesset, the president consults with all the elected parliamentary factions and then officially assigns the task of forming a new government to the head of the faction with the best chances of forming a government."

Three factors that presidents have traditionally taken into account when assigning the task of forming a government were which faction won the most seats, whether the Right or Left bloc was larger, and which leader received the most recommendations from MKs during the president's consultations.

In the event of a close race, the endorsements of the factions could play a larger role than usual.

A survey of the factions over the weekend found that the Likud had the backing of its own MKs and those of Shas, Habayit Hayehudi, the National Union and most likely United Torah Judaism.

The only lawmakers certain to back Livni will be her own party's MKs and those of Meretz.

Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who is close to party chairman Avigdor Lieberman, said his faction would recommend that either Netanyahu or Lieberman himself form the next government.

Labor MKs said that while no decision had been made, when Livni tried to form a coalition in October, they recommended to Peres that Labor chairman Ehud Barak form a government and not Livni.

Livni will not be able to count on the support of the three Arab factions, whose MKs are still upset at her for her role in Operation Cast Lead and for saying in December that in the event of the formation of a Palestinian state, the national aspirations of Israeli Arabs "lie elsewhere."

"What Livni said about us is worse than Lieberman," United Arab List-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi said on Saturday night. "That's why we won't recommend to Peres that Livni form a government."

Hadash chairman Muhammad Barakeh said that "Tzipi Livni is not an option for us and neither is Barak or Netanyahu. I don't see us recommending someone who supported the war."

Kadima officials responded that such speculation did not matter, because the factions would reconsider their views if Livni won the election.
Livni's problem is that Kadima is neither right nor left. As I have been telling you since I started this blog, Kadima is a party without ideology. Right now, the country is leaning right, and so Tzipi Livni and Kadima are trying to make themselves out to be hawks to appeal to the current trend to the right. They're not fooling anyone on the right and they're just ticking off their friends on the left. Maybe this time ideology will win out.

Could Peres turn left and give a tie to Livni? Sure. But not if the right has 70 MK's. Will Lieberman seriously recommend Livni, as the Likud as claiming? Not if he wants to keep his newfound status as one of the 'large parties.'


At 8:40 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Kadima not only lacks a clear ideology, the people in it are incompetents, amateur bunglers, and crooks. I'll be surprised if they come in second. They may well finish third on Tuesday so any talk of a tie is academic. The only person who can really challenge Bibi for the Prime Minister Office at this point is Avigdor Lieberman. His party could well come in second on Tuesday and that leaves President Peres in the position of choosing between two Right wing candidates to form the next government.

If there is a national unity government, it will probably include all the parties except Meretz and the Arabs and command well over 100 seats in the Knesset.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Please don't curse us with such a 'national unity' government. For that to happen, all the right wing parties would have to agree to work towards a 'Palestinian' reichlet.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - you know where I stand on a Palestinian reichlet with the exception of National Union -Ichud Leumi, I haven't see a right-wing party come out in principle against one. And that's a sign of how much the political ground has shifted in the last two decades in Israel.

Its small comfort the Jews For A Second Holocaust one state solution is for the moment, the lunatic fringe. If there is to be a NU government, it should be temporary and directed exclusively towards neutralizing Iran. There will never be end on all the other things, to the wars among the Jews, as long as Israel exists on this earth.


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