Another slap in the face from Netanyahu
From Peace Now:
Following a rumoured freeze, and Secretary Kerry’s continuing efforts to launch negotiations, Israel announces intent to establish four new settlements by legalizing existing illegal outposts.
On Tuesday, the Government submitted a formal response to Peace Now’s Supreme Court petition against six illegal outposts. In the response the government declares its intention to legalize four outposts, in isolated areas.
The Civil Administration has been instructed to begin a process of legalizing the outposts of Ma’ale Rehavam, Haroeh, Givat Assaf, and Mitzpe Lachish. The former government had previously promised to remove the illegal construction built on private land, but had not declared its intention to legalize the outposts.
The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the petition on Wednesday, May 22nd.
All of these proposed new settlements — retrospectively legalised ones — are located outside of the Security Barrier and beyond the boundary line drawn by the Geneva Initiative, both of which form the basis for a future border between Israel and Palestine to be finalised in negotiations. This move is, therefore, another slap in the face delivered by Benjamin Netanyahu to his coalition partners Yesh Atid and Hatnua, his few partners for peace in the Palestinian Authority, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry who has been working diligently in recent weeks to restart the peace process.
View New settlements (16/5) in a larger map
Bibi: So, where’s the government?
Matt Yglesias posted this question on twitter the other day, I think it deserves a decent answer:
What is blocking a Bibi-Lapid-Bennett “screw the Haredim” coalition from forming at this point?— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 2, 2013
I’ll do the best I can, based on what I’ve read over the past long, long month and what I perceive to be happening post-election. The principal divide as it stands is between Benjamin Netanyahu on the one hand, and Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett on the other over the role of the haredim both in government and in Israeli society more widely. The specific issues which matter to both Yesh Atid and Jewish Home (and also Yisrael Beiteinu) are military service for all, a fairer housing policy, education and the implementation of a core curriculum in all schools, taking the rabbinate out of haredi control, and funding for the yeshivot.
(There is, also, a smaller parting over the role of Tzipi Livni as lead negotiator with the Palestinians, one which upsets both Lapid, who wishes to be Foreign Minister, and Bennett, who wants to wholly annex Area C of the West Bank and has condemned Livni possibly conceding Ariel or dividing Jerusalem in bilateral talks with Abbas and Fayyad.)
President Obama goes to Israel
President Obama will land in at Ben Gurion International Airport at around noon on Wednesday, March 20, where he will be greeted by President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu prior to an official welcome at the president’s residence. Hereafter, he will go to Yad Vashem in order to lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.
Thereafter, Obama will visit Mount Herzl, where he will lay wreathes on the tombs of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin.
In the afternoon, Obama will conduct meetings with Netanyahu and various delegations in order to discuss the security situation in the region as well as the peace process. After a press conference, Obama and Netanyahu will take supper together, along with their staffs.
#IsraelVotes: Gathering the Loose Threads
Such has been the pace of developments since the vote on Tuesday that there has barely been time to speculate — an excellent development, you might think! Already, it has become evident that an alliance between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid will be the basis of the next government of Israel. The only undecided how remains who will help prop this axis up.
For starters, Gil Hoffman in The Jerusalem Post reports that Netanyahu wishes to form a government made of 80 mandates so that if one party leaves, his premiership would not be brought to a close. Together, Yesh Atid and Likud Beiteinu have 50 MKs. It almost seems certain, according to Hoffman, that Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home will join as the third party, bringing the total up to 62 MKs. After that, Netanyahu is keen on adding the haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. This would make the magical 80 MKs. Lapid, on the other hand, is pushing for Tzipi Livni’s The Movement, while conceding that one of the ultra-Orthodox parties will have to be included. Shas and The Movement together would push the total mandates up to 79. If you include Kadima even, that makes 81 MKs.
If we take this reporting to be accurate — for the sake of argument — it almost going without saying that a Likud Beiteinu-Yesh Atid-Jewish Home-Shas-The Movement(-Kadima) government while being broad-based and covering most sectors of Israeli society would be extremely unstable and unwieldy. With this government, it would be rather difficult to pass a better sharing of the burden without the haredi parties rebelling and the left opposition consenting. The same can be said of any peace deal with the Palestinians, in that case with Jewish Home, some Likudniks, and maybe even the haredim rebelling. The kind of government Netanyahu and Lapid supposedly envisage wouldn’t last two years if they actually attempted to do anything substantive. It would be a case of tinkering with the status quo with that sort of coalition.
If Netanyahu chose to form a smaller government, then it would be a more nimble outfit, more capable of broader reforms. A government of Likud Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, Jewish Home, The Movement, and Kadima would have 70 mandates, and would for the first time in a good while have the power to radically alter the balance between religion and state in Israel, including wrestling the rabbinate out the hands of the ultra-Orthodox, instituting civil marriage, ending or reducing the massive subsidies currently granted to the haredi community, reforming the education system, and getting the ultra-Orthodox into military or national service (within reason). Replace Jewish Home with Shas, and any reform would be milder in flavour, more pinched, put at the same time perhaps progress on peace with the Palestinians — in theory — become more likely, since if haredi interests are catered to then generally speaking Shas will be satisfied.
In Israel, Thinking About The Day After That
An updated and edited version of this article appears in Tablet, entitled “Israeli Election Update: Coalition Scenarios”, January 9, 2013.
With the election in Israel two weeks away, the shape of the next government is becoming more apparent. Likud Beiteinu – provided their slide in the polls is over and the centre-left fail to form a united front – will be the largest entity in the 19th Knesset and will have the right to try and form the next government. Within the right camp, the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) will be the largest party, followed by Shas. Yachimovich’s Labor will lead the left, while Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua (The Movement) and Yesh Atid will have sizeable caucuses too.
These are the parties which have the best chance of making up the next government, one which will have to confront security dilemmas on the Egyptian, Syrian, and Gazan fronts, the deterioration of its international alliances, and the Palestinian question on the West Bank, as well as deal with domestic considerations including the question of how best to replace the Tal Law. It is worth considering, then, just what kind of government Israelis will be forced upon them days after they cast their ballots:
Scenario One: Likud Beiteinu Forms a Right-Wing Government
It is hard to read Benjamin Netanyahu’s intentions at the best of times, but the least we know that he is inherently cautious and interested above all else in maintaining his position at the top of Israeli politics. It is in his immediate interest, therefore, to try and construct a government that is very similar in character, temperament, and slant to the one he has now. In order to do so, he would require the support of Jewish Home and perhaps Yesh Atid, the most likely of the centre-left parties to cross the divide for the right ministry:
- Likud Beiteinu (34); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); United Torah Judaism (6): 65 MKs;
- Likud Beiteinu (34); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); Yesh Atid (10): 69 MKs;
- Likud Beiteinu (34); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); Yesh Atid (10); United Torah Judaism (6): 75 MKs.
Yesh Atid and Shas?
Pro-blogger The Camel’s Nose reported Monday on the tussle for power between Shas and Yesh Atid to become the king-maker in any future government, the foundation of which will be Likud Beiteinu and Jewish Home. In so doing, they posited that Yesh Atid would be a more attractive coalition partner for Netanyahu than Shas:
First, it is much more closely aligned ideologically with Likud than Shas. Second, while centrist, Yesh Atid’s leader Yair Lapid is not as politically experienced as the Shas leadership, making negotiations to join the coalition easier on Likud’s end. Finally, PM Netanyahu may be under pressure from Naftali Bennett not to include Shas in the coalition in order to maximize Jewish Home’s influence as a religious party. Bringing in Yesh Atid would preserve the strength of Netanyahu’s coalition numbers wise, but without alienating Bennett - a man who has quickly become a mover and shaker in Israeli politics.
I agree, and would only add that the views of Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu should not be ignored. I would argue that it is Evet rather than Bibi who would be more likely to push the line, “If he gets a number of seats that could compensate for Shas’s power, we would prefer to sit with him and not with them”, as a senior Likud Beiteinu official was reported to have told Channel 2. We know that Lieberman is closer to Lapid on matters of religion and state, as well as the sharing of the burden, matters both anathema to Shas and the other ultra-Orthodox parties who seek to preserve the privileged status of the Haredim and their strand of Judaism within Israel.
The problem for Netanyahu is that he might not be in a position where he is able to make such a choice. For, based on upon current averages of polling data, Likud Beiteinu, Jewish Home, and Yesh Atid do not a coalition make, falling short of the 61 seats required to form a majority by around three seats. Other parties would thus need to join Netanyahu’s coalition, and three immediately come to mind: Tzipi Livni’s The Movement; United Torah Judaism; or… Shas.