Sunday, October 28, 2012

The great betrothal

PM Netanyahu and FM Lieberman have unexpectedly announced their betrothal.  They are joining their parties together into one party to run in the upcoming elections.  This will enhance the right-wing coalition of Likud and Yisrael Beitanu to form an unnamed party.  I can suggest a name for the new party, what about "Likud Beitanu."  At present these parties together have 27 (Likud) and 15 seats (YB) in the current Knesset.  However, it has been suggested that the combined party would yield only ca. 35 seats in the next election, i.e. less, not more, than their current collective aggregate.  
The idea is to halt the trend of many small parties and coalitions towards forming two blocs, the center right and the center left.  However, the left is so split that such a merger seems very unlikely.  Kadima, although it was the largest party in the current Knesset (28 seats), is in the process of splintering apart, with members jumping ship and joining (or rejoining) Likud or Labor.  Its current Head, Shaul Mofaz, is not considered suitably able by many of its members. The Head of Labor, Shelli Yacimovich, is intent on maintaining her socialist purity and has stated that she doesn't want to combine with any other parties.  The new Party Yesh Atid (there is a future) of Yair Lapid is trying to emerge as an independent center party, and the Independence Party of Ehud Barak is basically only him.  The extreme left party Meretz has only 3 seats and is not expected to do any better.  From this ferment may arise a stable center-right Government. 
The bethrothal, not yet a marriage, would leave only the religious parties on the right, including Shas (11) and United Torah Judaism (5).  This marriage of convenience may cause a further split in Likud, although that might be avoided by Netanyahu's machinations.  The traditional right of Likud look askance at the inclusion of YB because they regard Avigdor Lieberman as a upstart Russian interloper.  He is both more right-wing than them and less so, in that he supports the right of Israel to build settlements on the West Bank, but he opposes the strict religious definition of who is a Jew.  In that respect he is a characteristic leader of the Russian-Israelis, and his inclusion as a leader into Likud represents the coming of age of the Russian olim.  Sharansky could not manage that, because he was not a sufficiently skilled politician.  This move by both Netanyahu and Lieberman recognizes that the Russian olim (ca. 1 million) have become integrated into Israel and are now a part of the fabric of the center-right.  If it is successful, Netanyahu may obtain the largest number of seats for a single party ever, and might even obtain an absolute majority (51 seats or more) together with the religious parties.  That would be a major success and would provide him with the necessary mandate in case there is a need to attack Iran over its nuclear weapons program.


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