Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Livni gambit

It is said that "Politics is the art of the possible," but some Israeli politicians expect the impossible.  Naftali Bennett of the right wing Bayit Yehudi Party and Yair Lapid of the center Yesh Atid Party have joined forces to strong-arm Bibi Netanyahu into accepting their dictates of future coalition government policies.  In effect they are saying, we won't join your coalition unless you give us what we want.  But, they are dealing with an experienced and slippery politician in Bibi Netanyahu of Likud-Beitanu.  So far he has not budged, on the contrary he seems to be doing a deal to form another coalition against their interests.  This might result in these two parties ending up in the opposition and their leaders having won their block of seats for nothing. 
Take Tzipi Livni (please), as a cautionary example. In the 2009 election for the 18th Knesset her party won the largest number of seats, so she thought she could boss Bibi around.  She demanded to be joint or alternate PM with Bibi, but he wasn't having it, he formed a more right-wing coalition and left her out in the cold, in the opposition.  She sat there and fumed and said nasty things about Bibi, but accomplished nothing.  Then she was thrown out of her party, Kadima, and for the election this year for the 19th Knesset she formed her own party "The Tzipi Livni movement," into which she collected some hacks and although predicting many mandates, she ended up with only 6 seats. 
Now this time she has learnt her lesson, so although she absolutely rejected being in any coalition government headed by PM Netanyahu, she negotiated with him and was the first to come to an agreement and was able to get the Justice Ministry, where she has served two previous terms as Minister.  So she has learnt the golden rule, "better to be in the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in."  Bibi also showed he has learnt a lesson or two, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
Unfortunately, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid are innocent politicians, never having been in this situation before.  They have succumbed to the Tzipi Livni syndrome, believing that they can throw their weight around, without ever having done so before. Bibi has out-maneuvered them so far, not only with Livni, but he has also had talks with Shas and Labor (an unlikely coalition).  So unless these two erstwhile leaders want to spend the next few years in the political wilderness they had better quickly get off their high horses and deal with Bibi.  Otherwise we're in for new elections and I think the electorate will punish them for their lack of action as they did Livni.  But, a poll conducted by the Knesset TV channel claims that in a new election Yair Lapid with increase his support while Netanyahu will lose 50%.  So maybe Netanyahu will blink first.


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