Netanyahu-Lieberman Unity Ticket – A Massive Gamble

October 29, 2012 7:00 pm 2 comments

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Photo: LIFE.

There may have been covert negotiations between Netanyahu and Lieberman for a long time. But as far as the Likud and Israel Beiteinu leadership and members were concerned – not to mention the public – the announcement was a bolt from the sky.

That Netanyahu and Lieberman could make such an announcement on the recommendations of a foreign political consultant without even adequate prior internal consultations and consideration with other senior party leader, reflects poorly on the inner democracy of their parties and their accountability as leaders.

One is also tempted to question Netanyahu’s judgment in these matters. Had he opted for early elections he would have won handsomely. His impulsive deal with Kadima last May was initiated without adequate pre-planning and backfired disastrously.

Now he appears to have once again made a major strategic move without prior consultations within his inner party circles. This highlights an ongoing deficiency in his leadership approach – the failure to engage party colleagues in decision-making which marks him as a loner and understandably creates resentment.

There is also a question as to whether he has adequately planned this joint venture. What agreements were made in relation to the Haredi draft and other religion and state issues such as conversion, marriage and the role of the rabbinate over which he and Lieberman had previously differed? Did they reach a broad understanding in relation to the peace process? Did they discuss the civil rights issues over which they previously differed? Do they have a view on a future coalition which would not necessarily be based on dependency on the Haredi parties? Did Netanyahu reach an understanding that Lieberman would cease publicly contradicting or rebuking him?

Has Netanyahu taken into consideration the fact that Weinstein could still indict Lieberman on corruption charges?

These are all issues concerning which voters are entitled to clarification.

There is the risk that far from strengthening the two parties, both will lose voters. Currently both parties control 43 seats. Should that be substantially reduced what will be the benefit of the unity ticket?

Some Likud Sephardi voters and those more liberally inclined may object to being associated with a hard-line secular Russian based party. Some Israel Beiteinu voters may defect because they will resent the fact that their efforts to limit the excessive leverage of the ultra-Orthodox will be undermined or that their party will be moving to the center.

Netanyahu prided himself, with good reason, for having moved the political fulcrum of Israeli politics towards a consensus of the center. His latest move could signal a hard line tilt and considerable less flexibility. Is that really what he wants to achieve?

The potentially positive byproduct of such a merger could be if it leads to the elimination of the smaller parties, the emergence of a three party system and a reform of the current electoral system. But beyond paying lip service to the need for reform, have there been any concrete agreements or strategies devised to implement such changes?

The beneficiaries of this move will undoubtedly be Sheli Yachimovitch’s Labor Party, Yair Lapid’s new party Yesh Atid and possibly Shas.

Labor certainly stands to gain a substantial proportion of Kadima’s disaffected voters and could well gain 20 seats, emerging as the new leader of the opposition. Yachimovich is a relative novice to politics but has displayed the capacity of reviving a genuine social Democratic Zionist party and indicated that she has no time for the delusionary far left and post Zionist elements that virtually brought the party to extinction. But unlike Tzipi Livni, she avoids opposition for the sake of opposition and selectively supports government policies, presenting a united front on issues such as the threat of a nuclear Iran. Whilst critical of settlements, she constantly reminds her followers that Labor was responsible for initiating settlement policies and speaks with restraint and compassion about sacrifices that may be required from those living in isolated areas outside the major blocs.

Yair Lapid is also entirely new to politics but has a clean record, is a bright and likable person and likely to gain a substantial number of seats, especially if the Netanyahu Lieberman group fail to commit to a genuine reform in relation to the Haredi issues such as the draft. Unlike his late father, he does not engage in crude Haredi bashing but seeks to cultivate support for the burning resentment against the Haredi draft evasion, their failure to earn livelihoods and attempts to impose stringent religious standards on the entire nation. By making his number two listed candidate the religious Zionist former military chaplain Rabbi Shai Piron, he is sending a message that he wants to change the system but is not an anti-religious bigot.

Shas may also gain a number of disaffected Sephardi voters who will not wish to be aligned with Lieberman’s Russian based party.

The major question is whether a broader national unity government will emerge in which a consensus based on centrist policies is maintained or whether the country’s political leadership will move towards the hard right?

Initially, even Labor had agreed to consider participating in a broader national unity government. With the new constellation including Lieberman, this could be problematic.

Irrespective as to who wins the US elections, Israel is facing extraordinary global challenges over the next few years and we would be well served by a broad unity government. The Iranian nuclear issue poses a long-term existential threat. There could be a revival of calls for a renewal of negotiations based on the indefensible 1949 armistice lines representing the opening benchmark. We face renewed terrorist threats from nearly all our borders and there are upheavals and instability throughout the Arab world.

Ironically, despite the anti-Netanyahu media, our outgoing prime minister has emerged as a true statesman and remains head and shoulders above any other potential leadership contender. His policy towards the Palestinians – a willingness to make major concessions based on reciprocity but no further unilateral concessions – enjoys a consensual support of the nation. Despite ongoing terrorist attempts, a high level of security was sustained.

Netanyahu’s earlier involvement in the Israeli economy combined with persuading Stanley Fischer to assume the post of Governor of the Bank of Israel enabled us to weather the global economic meltdown far better than most European and North American economies. The social protest issues were confronted and whilst there still remains a need to curb the power of the controlling family-owned corporations, the dominant issue during the election is likely to be security rather than the economy.

Will Netanyahu now undermine himself with this Lieberman unity ticket? In this volatile political environment anything goes. Time will tell.

The writer may be contacted at ileibler@leibler.com. This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom.

2 Comments

  • The above discussion is entirely irrelevant at a time when this tiny country is under mortal threat. If the country is to survive Netanyahu needs a very streamlined “War-Cabinet”. Lieberman belongs there as done Nathan Sharansky.
    Unless one is totally oblivious to what’s happening in the U.S. and Middle East, say goodbye to a “broad-based coalition”. That will invite a worse scenario than Golda Meir’s “coalition” which should be spelled “collusion” (with the enemy within).

  • NETANYAHU WAS ALWAYS LUCKY, LETS HOPE IT IS RUNNING OUT.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.