Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →