1. Bibi said he wants a broad-based coalition. Since he did not run requesting a specific mandate for anything, this is the more likely direction than a right wing government in spite of David Remmick’s prediction in the very recent The New Yorker in his otherwise superb portrait of Naftali Bennett that, “More broadly, the story of the election is the implosion of the center-left and the vivid and growing strength of the radical right”. The right did NOT grow and most commentators were wrong.
2. Though some commentators have said that the hard core peaceniks deserted Labour because Shelley would not headline the peace process in her platform, though this may have happened, my tiny survey suggested that many other voters were going to Meretz for other reasons than the left-right split.
3. Many have recorded the results as an almost even split between right and left. (“The Israeli vote split exactly even between right-leaning and left-leaning blocs with both sets capturing 60 seats in the Knesset.”) This is a misrepresentation. Shas is not exactly right. Further, included in these totals on the left is the 12 seats won by Arab parties. The fact is current multi-varied divisions do not fit into the obsolete left-right dichotomy; the centre voters who supported Lapid and Livni with 25% of the votes are an indicator.
4. Lapid has said he will not join a government if Shas is part of it but remember he has reiterated many times that he is not anti-Haredi but just anti-funding their lifestyle.
5. Lapid has also said that the peace process must be reinvigorated, but that peace process should not include the re-division of Jerusalem.
6. Bibi stated that he would demonstrate “responsibility in striving (my italics) for peace”.
7. Many envision the resurrection of a right wing coalition with Bennet’s Habayit Hayehudi and Shas. (Dow Marmur: “He and his party are most likely to be in the government as influential advocates of settlement expansion and a bit of a light counterweight to ultra-Orthodox Shas” even though “the latter was vehement in its attacks on Habayit Hayehudi during the election campaign.”; Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that,”I’m assuming, for now, a Likud-Yesh Atid-Jewish Home coalition.”) I DO NOT. Bibi has clearly signalled a move to the centre rather than the right and in his campaign targeted Bennet almost more than anyone else. Further, Avigdor Liberman has always been anti-Haredi and prefers Lapid. I agree with Barry Rubin: “Netanyahu never wanted a right-wing government with Bennett. Even if he did, a combination with that party would only get him up to 42 and he would be hard-put to find partners who would join such a combination. Even pulling in the two religious parties would let him reach 60 but he knows that this is a situation that would both cause big international problems and create a situation in which he could be daily blackmailed by threats of his partners to walk out of the coalition.” (See The Rubin Report) However, Barry envisions a possible coalition with Lapid and Shas who will compromise on their religious welfare demands and even possibly conscription to stay in government. On that he may be right (see later).
8. It will be ironic and interesting if the opposition is made up of the bitter rivals, the Haredi and mainly Orthodox Zionists led by Bennett. And note that religious representatives in all parties (including the Arab religious party) constitute over 40% of the Knesset, a situation unique in any western democracy.
9. Bibi prefers a secure-based government rather than one with a narrow margin.
10. Labour, in my estimation, did not previously break up because Barak joined the government, but because of the terms under which it joined and because of Barak’s personality. I envision Labour being open to joining the government, especially in light of the historical results and dramatic fall of Tzipi Livni when she refused to join. This is the element of suspense since Shelley Yachimovich pledged not to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition, but she could qualify this and say that she meant not in the same way Barak did. Undoubtedly, in the next two weeks she may try to block a Bibi-led coalition, but to what benefit when she lost some voters to Meretz and when Lapid would be called next to try to form a government (and might indeed be more successful for Labour would join Lapid with Bibi in government the government would not be Likud-led). The question for Shelley (just as it is for Bibi) is whether she wants to strengthen her main rival and make him Prime Minister or join a Bibi-led government. My bet is that she will opt for the latter.
11. I think that by now Tzipi Livni has learned her lesson and will be more comfortable in a government without the Haredi and with Labour and Yesh Atid in spite of past pledges not to join a Bibi-led government.
12. If Kadima manages to get enough votes shifted to it to cross the finish line and be in the Knesset, this will also assist in forming a broad-based centrist government.
13. Even Haaretz envisions this result, but thinks inclusion of Bennett as a possibility. “The reasonable assumption now is that the coalition will be based on Likud and Yair Lapid’s new party Yesh Atid, with one or two parties from the center-left bloc and perhaps Habayit Hayehudi to Netanyahu’s right.”
I think this is less likely since Bibi is resentful of Bennett and does not want to strengthen an evident rival. On the other hand, Bibi might want to balance the left with a stronger right, but, in my estimation, personal considerations of retaining power will count more than ideology. Since Bennett ran on a left of centre economic platform of lowering the cost of living, ironically the parties in the centre and left could support his joining the coalition for that reason, but I still think it is rather less than more likely.
14. Not only does this mean new legislation conscripting Haredi (and Arab Israelis) in some form, and an end to the Tal law exempting the Haredi, but the introduction of a new economic program geared more to helping the middle class.
15. The bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities is now uncertain and more than ever dependent on Obama; I think Obama won without even casting a ballot or, unlike Bibi, interfering in the Israeli election.
16. My big question is whether Shas will agree to national conscription for Haredi in return for a position in the government; I am betting the Haredi might if the change is introduced gradually and has the option of civilian service, especially since Bibi will use all his powers of persuasion to make sure the other parties do not dominate his coalition at the same time as he strives to prevent other parties from making a deal with the Haredi.
17. While the Palestinians should have been delighted by the results, they are not (See Saeb Ekrat’s interview in The Times of Israel) because, I believe, there will now be more rhetoric about the peace process coming from the Israeli side, but, given the Palestinian entrenched positions, the hard liners that now dominate Likud, and Lapid’s support for a united Jerusalem (how big?), there is unlikely to be any action.
18. The foreign media will have a diminished target in Israel with the shrinking of the Israeli right and the resurrection of talk about peace (but no action).
19. Further, can we envision a shift as well in the Jewish diaspora back from the right towards the centre since we have just witnessed a revolt of the professional middle class, both religious and secular?
20. As a result of the elections, many commentators have echoed the sentiment that Israel remains a very divided nation. In my next BLOG, I will suggest that this is only superficially true and that Israel is undergoing a metamorphosis that is changing the Israeli culture in which old divisions are accepted, but under a new overlay of more important values.
[tags Israel, politics, election]