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Last night I was able to publish a quick diary regarding the Breaking News that the Israeli Government decided rather than have early elections, they would form a national unity government between the two largest parties; Likud - The party of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu which has 27 seats and Kadima - Now the party of the now Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz which has 28 seats in the Israeli Knesset (Parliment).

In that diary, there is some great discussion from some very knowledgable Kossaks about the process which I recommend reading.

Today I wanted to follow up with more analysis and discussion. PLUS I wanted to show reactions from the Israeli Opposition (Labor, Meretz, and Yair Lapid).

First a quick re-cap. Up until last night the Israeli Government was planning on dissolving itself to hold early elections on Sept. 4th 2012 (ahead of October 2013 the original date). Here was a diary I wrote about those elections which showed some information, of course given the news of the day, that diary is irrelevant BUT, some of the info. contained in it will help with some background.

OK.. so on to events of the last day and reactions.

In late meetings yesterday, Kadima - which had been the main opposition party, not too mention the largest party in the Knesset (the Israeli parliment) joined into a National Unity Government with Likud and the Government with it's huge numbers of seats in the Knesset (up to 94 out of 120) cancelled the early elections.

So what is happening today....

Well reactions range from surprised to somewhat hopeful to somewhat negative. First I would like to give the reaction now from Israel's Opposition party Avodah (Labor):

"Does the truth have no value?" asked Labor Party Chair Shelly Yachimovich at a press conference Tuesday on the decision to cancel early elections and establish a wide unity government.

Yachimovich took the podium after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Party Chairman Shaul Mofaz announced that Kadima would be joining the coalition. "Do you believe a single word they say?" Yachimovich asked. ...

...Turning to Mofaz, Yachimovich said that, unlike him, she had never called Netanyahu a liar, and that when criticizing him she had always been respectful, despite the strong ideological polarization.

Nevertheless, she said, Netanyahu was a "right-wing extremist, a capitalist, an old-school Thatcherite."

"And that's what the debate is about – two ideologies: one social-democratic and one capitalistic and violent."

Now that Kadima joined the coalition, Yachimovich's Labor which was seeing a small rennissance under her leadership is now the head of the Opposition and as she later said, she feels that's a role that Avodah can play. With the summer protests coming (and with their focus on Social and Economic Justice), Labor indeed does have an opportunity here.

In a swipe at both the new government AND Labor and Meretz. New Party Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid had this to say:

"This is the chance of a lifetime. Without understanding what they were doing, Mofaz and (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu have made us the only alternative for the sane center," the journalist-turned-politician wrote in the letter, which was published following Netanyahu and Mofaz's joint press conference.

"I know you are disappointed with the past day's developments because as citizens it pains you to see how cynicism has taken over the entire political sphere and how no one is even pretending to care. You are also disappointed because we could already taste it. We already launched our (election) campaign," Lapid wrote.

"I felt the same way for about two hours, and then I realized this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Kadima has gone back to being what it has always been – a part of Likud. Labor and Meretz are on the Left. In one day we have become the only representatives of the sane middle class," the rookie politician told his supporters.

"Twenty-eight mandates are now up for grabs in the center of the political map. They could be ours. You can also add all those who are infuriated by the old and immoral politics we have witnessed (today)."

The Pundits in Israel and the U.S. are also out in full force. Here are a few:

Bradley Burston in Haaretz writes: Netanyahu's next Israel: Bad for the Right, good for the Jews

This is no longer the elected government of Israel. This is the hand-picked junta of the state of Bullpucky. There is the defense minister whom no one in Israel will vote for, the justice minister whom no one has ever voted for, the foreign minister for whom elections have been a keep-out-of-jail card, and now Mofaz.

It was just last week that Shaul Mofaz telling everyone who would listen, that Netanyahu and Barak were unfit to run this country, inappropriate to meet its social challenges, ill-equipped to deal rationally with the one issue that consumes them, Iran.

Apparently, in exchange for a cabinet post at a time when Kadima is plummeting in polls, Mofaz now concedes that Netanyahu and Barak are at least fit to run Shaul Mofaz.....

.....Keep your eye, especially, on Labor and Meretz and Hadash. And keep your eye, as well, on Rabin Square. Summer is coming in early this year. So are social justice protests. The same protests that the election campaign was meant, in part, to undercut.

Already the rallies have begun.... Speaking at a rally of 1,000 also attended by Labor and Meretz MK's Tzipi Livni (former leader of Kadima) had this to say:

During the rally, which was organized by activists affiliated with last summer's social protest, former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said she came "at the request of these young people, who care about Israel and are willing to fight for its future, and could not tolerate this morning's turn of events.

"They deserve politics that are based on principles rather than (Knesset) seats," she said.

Haaretz editor Aluf Benn had this in his column Formation of Israeli unity cabinet shows Netanyahu blinked first, again
In the dead-of-night deal he reached with Kadima chief Shaul Mofaz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acted exactly according to a pattern of behavior established in his current term: avoiding risks at all costs. Netanyahu preferred the 18 months of certainty a unity government provides over going to an elections, despite polls that predicted an easy win.

Netanyahu hates taking chances. He'll always prefer playing it safe and avoiding uncertain situations. As far as he's concerned, the results speak to his favor. Fact is, he's still in power, and will stay there for a long time heading an unbreakable coalition, with Tzipi Livni who used to assault him in her Knesset speeches for his "survival policy," sitting at her Tel Aviv home.

Now, Netanyahu is at his most comfortable. Instead of been dependant on the mood swings of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Likud's right-wing representatives, he has a coalition with two wings, between which he can maneuver. At times he'll break right, at others left, all according to the needs of the moment. He can throw a bone to Lieberman and then to Mofaz; build a settlement and evacuate illegal structures. At times he’ll indicate that war with Iran is near and at others he'll give U.S. President Barack Obama's diplomatic overtures a chance. No politician can dream up of a more perfect situation.

So.... What do we think will happen? My facebook friends in Israel are mixed. Some are positive that this will be ok and will allow Netanyahu to tack to the Center and make deals with Palestinians as well as rein in the religious. Others feel it is destruction of the democratic process where leaders from parties have let down their constituencies.

No one knows what is in store and we won't have any idea for a few months what this really will mean but, it is very interesting news.

I invite you all to discuss and most of all speculate but please observe the following:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great digest Volley (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    volleyboy1, zenox, livosh1

    Curse the timing for this to happen during my finals week, otherwise I'd be all over it and studying everything I could get my hands on (it'd give me a good excuse to practice my ivrit as well).

    "If you don't stick to your values when tested, they're not values! They're hobbies" - Jon Stewart

    by LivingOxymoron on Tue May 08, 2012 at 12:44:50 PM PDT

    •  I wish you could be more into it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LivingOxymoron, livosh1

      Your analysis has been very interesting reading.

      Well take a look at the articles I cited in your time (when you have some). I would really like your take on this.

      And this is helping my Hebrew as well. I have been struggling to read stuff and it is helping.... Now when I have the conversations... heh....

      •  I think I might try to bang out something (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        In the next day or two.  A "Primer to the Israeli electoral process" just so that people can have some context when they read this stuff.  Israel's system is so much different than the US system that I think its hard to grasp what these changes mean unless you have an understanding of the system in which they take place.

        "If you don't stick to your values when tested, they're not values! They're hobbies" - Jon Stewart

        by LivingOxymoron on Tue May 08, 2012 at 10:28:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  how long can they avoid an election now? (0+ / 0-)

    also, does anyone care what Yair Lapid might say?

    I want to be hopeful that Likud/Kadima will fall on their faces and Labor will win out...

    "You try to vote or participate in the government/ and the muh'fuckin' Democrats is actin' like Republicans" ~ Kweli -8.00, -6.56

    by joey c on Tue May 08, 2012 at 01:24:56 PM PDT

    •  Elections must happen every 4 years (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Which means they've kicked the can down the road until next year.

      "If you don't stick to your values when tested, they're not values! They're hobbies" - Jon Stewart

      by LivingOxymoron on Tue May 08, 2012 at 02:11:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well they weren't trying to avoid elections joey (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mets102, livosh1

      In fact, Netanyahu called for early elections.

      The original elections were scheduled for October 2013, They are back on schedule.

      But joey... had they had early elections, Netanyahu would have won in a romp... I mean it would not have been close.

      •  i must have misunderstood the dynamic (0+ / 0-)

        I was aware that Netanyahu called for early elections but thought that the Likud entering this new coalition must have been a more attractive option for him (otherwise why not spurn it and continue with the election?), and why would it be more attractive for him unless he had something to fear from the upcoming election?

        "You try to vote or participate in the government/ and the muh'fuckin' Democrats is actin' like Republicans" ~ Kweli -8.00, -6.56

        by joey c on Wed May 09, 2012 at 08:45:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nah joey, he was cruising in the polls (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joey c

          Take a look at my diary from just last week I have the four latest polls in there.

          As for the coming elections... Read Aluf Benn's column in this diary above. I think that explains some things about Netanyahu.

          As far as what this does... Well, co-opting Kadima (which spun off from Likud in the first place) gives his coalition up to 94 seats (out of 120 in the Knesset). He no longer has to give in to the extremes to hold his government together. This is a big deal particularly wrt the Ultra-Orthodox.

          What it also does is give him leverage against the Summer Economic Justice protests at least in terms of passing laws. Since, elections are now in October 2013 (unless this coalition falls apart completely), he can legislate with an overwhelming majority.

          ALSO, he basically wiped out Kadima (or they did that themselves by getting co-opted). So now, he runs the government with little to no opposition and a strong coalition.

          BUT... what he just did was focus the Opposition AND he is setting himself up for a potential fight on a peace plan. This could be a "gut-check" moment for both sides. Check out this article from Carlo Strenger from Haaaretz

          •  Thanks for your patience (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            in explaining/reiterating.

            also, the link to Stenger's article was informative.

            "You try to vote or participate in the government/ and the muh'fuckin' Democrats is actin' like Republicans" ~ Kweli -8.00, -6.56

            by joey c on Wed May 09, 2012 at 10:54:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No problem joey... This is a tough issue and there (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joey c

              is a lot of mis-information and half truths on both sides that get tossed around. It is extremely complicated and understanding the issue is no small matter. I don't even understand it that much.

              Anyway, I appreciate your willingness to read and check out the info. from the papers there and not rely on just opinion.

  •  How is this destruction of the Democratic process? (0+ / 0-)

    This was done THROUGH democratic processes.

    The UK has at times had coalition governments with even larger majorities.

  •  I'm shocked (0+ / 0-)

    that Kadima didn't try to get more.  If I'm in a loosely ideologically affiliated party, I ask for the PM's resignation as a condition of joining.  Kadima could have gone fishing off of Netanyahu's pier.  

    I'll always be...King of Bain...I'll always be...King of Bain

    by AZphilosopher on Tue May 08, 2012 at 01:47:36 PM PDT

    •  I am surprised but not shocked (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LivingOxymoron, Mets102

      and the more I think of it, I am not that surprised. Kadima was getting crushed in the polls. They were going nowhere but down - I think they were tossed a lifeline.

      Had they asked for Netanyahu's resignation... he would have laughed at them (and should have). Netanyahu was almost assured a win at the polls in Sept.  Read Aluf Benn's column posted in the diary.

  •  Timing of eventual Israeli attack on Iran? (0+ / 0-)

    If one assumes that Netanyahu plans to attack Iran eventually (as many do), how does this political change affect the timing of his eventual attack?  Had he been in the middle of an election campaign, one assumes there would have been no decision to attack until at least the election in September.  With this coalition majority secured, Netanyahu now has more flexibility to time his military attack.  From Netanyahu's perspective, he has to consider whether he would be better off launching the sneak military attack on Iran before the U.S. election or after the U.S. election.  If he waits until after the election, he may be fearful of what a reelected Obama would do, particularly if U.S. Navy casualties result from the Iranian counterattacks after the initial Israeli strikes.  [A U.S. war-game analysis reported by the NY Times March 19, 2012 predicted 200 U.S. military deaths from Iranian counterstrikes on U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf since Iran would have to assume that the U.S. is a party to the Israeli sneak attack on Iran, and Israel has announced it would not provide advance warning to U.S. forces of the Israeli attack.]  If Israel attacks Iran before the U.S. election, there will be extraordinary pressure on Obama to have U.S. forces join the attack.  I think the new coalition means we could expect an Israeli attack on Iran some time before mid-October - unless Iran agrees to suspend all development of nuclear research, which no one expects.  

    •  First rule... One should never make assumptions (0+ / 0-)

      I don't see an attack coming in 2012. I simply don't see it. The Israelis don't have the military or civilian infrastucture to handle that.

      That said, this coalition makes an attack easier internally but only in the sense that the government would be more unified. Also, it lends teeth to the West to increase sanctions to stop the Israelis from attacking. I think THAT is what we are going to see.

      The Israeli populace is strongly against such an attack. And ultimately the Israeli polity does listen to the Israeli people despite the nonsensical ravings of a few in the "Izreel is teh ebilz" caucus.

      If the Israelis did decide to go, it would be with the U.S. - there is just no way they would do it on their own. If they attack, they had U.S. clearance to do so. That simple.

      So... bottom line is that one of us is totally wrong and one of is totally right. We'll see what happens.

  •  Good diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm still trying to see exactly what benefit Bibi gets from this unity government, considering his overwhelming lead in the polls for the election.  I don't buy the theory that he's just risk-averse.  Why help Kadima instead of just going to September and winning a mandate?

    •  Thanks... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Well see.. the summer is a long time in Israel. He is facing multiple challenges like the Summer Street Protests which seem to be back this year. Who knows what they could have done. AND that is just the challenge from the Left.

      On the Right, the Israeli High Court just ordered the evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood built (as they put it) "illegally on Palestinian Land" and the Rightists are absolutely FURIOUS about this. Plus one of Netanyahu's deputys just bailed out to form his own Rightist Party (which probably would not have made much difference but....). ALSO, apparently the YESHA was out in force gearing up for the Likud primaries.

      Netanyahu would have won in October but the Center and Left would also have picked up and the opposition instead of being the weak and rudderless Kadima, would have been a revitalized Labor.

      Now... he just destroyed Kadima like he did Labor in 2009. Mofaz proved himself a spineless liar, trying to keep Kadima alive and in my opinion rather than give it more time improve, just ultimately rendered it as useful as Atzmaout (Barak's party).

      There is also the theory that Netanyahu wants some settlement on the Palestinian question as well on the divide between secular and religious. Mofaz' ideas on the Occupation are not that far apart from Netanyahu's. With Kadima and Likud together they can work that.

      ONLY ONE PROBLEM... This assumes that Kadima MK's don't do like Labor and bail on the coalition. I mean even if they do, it won't matter much but still it is interesting to see what happens.

      •  Wow. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Multi-party democracy is so much more interesting than our own!  Thanks for the rundown.  It will be interesting to see if this does, indeed, lead to an effort at negotiating with the Palestinians.  I have my doubts about Bibi's sincerity there, though, so I don't really expect much to change in that regard.  For the record, I have no confidence in the sincerity of Abbas either.

        I wonder if having Kadima as part of the government will have any effect on the summer protests.  What I mean is, would the needed legislation to address those issues be more likely to pass with this government?

  •  Father's Death Creates New Possibilities? (0+ / 0-)

    On more than one occasion I have been told by Israeli friends that Netanyahu could never attempt to really move forward and make progress with their geographic and demographic conundrums in Israel while his father was still alive. Could the recent passing of influential conservative historian and public Israeli intellectual Benzion Netanyahu possibly have something to do with behind the scenes machinations in Israeli political circles?  Could this be the first step in a positive direction?

  •  An interesting perspective (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is found in J.J. Goldberg's piece in the Forward, where he writes that the Unity Deal Saves the Peace Camp. Bottom line, Bibi was certain to win and Kadima was certain to lose big if there were elections in September. This at least gives the Kadima and the other Center-Left parties an opportunity to get their shit together before 2013, when the electons will now be held.

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