Day After Elections, Coalition Building Begins for Netanyahu
by Zach Pontz
With the election behind him, the real difficulties begin for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he tries to build a broad coalition, a task almost surely to be delegated to him by President Shimon Peres.
As he has done in the past, Netanyahu may seek first to partner with the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. Shas and United Torah Judaism seem Netanyahu’s “natural” partners, and both have already signaled they are eager to join his coalition. The prime minister also reportedly expressed his willingness to invite them to build a government together, offering to open coalition talks with Shas’s Eli Yishai on Thursday.
But a right-wing coalition would leave Likud-Beiteinu, the Jewish Home party (11 seats), Shas (11 or 12 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats) with just 60-61 seats — a tiny majority, if that, in the 120-seat Knesset. Aside from it’s tenuous position of power, it would also be unlikely that a coalition of purely right-leaning members would be welcomed by the international community.
Netanyahu, however, signaled Tuesday that he wants to form a broad coalition, one that would include Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, whom he called shortly after election results were in. This would be dependent on Lapid, who is unlikely to join a coalition that includes both of the ultra-Orthodox parties. Also, Lapid has a firm stance on the universal draft. Any coalition that would include Shas and especially UTJ would be unlikely to agree to push through a law that would allow for Haredim to be drafted.
Another option, noted over at the Times of Israel, is Likud-Beiteinu partnering with Yesh Atid and Jewish Home. Again, this would mean Netanyahu having to survive on a slim majority of 61 seats, but it would be a majority devoid of Haredi parties, meaning the government would be able to finally legislate for universal conscription. Both Jewish Home chief Naftali Bennett and Lapid have voiced their willingness to join a government led by Netanyahu. On Wednesday morning Bennett told Ynet, “There is a real chance to form a government that will work towards true equal share of the burden.”
If Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua were to join as well, a stable center-right government with 67 seats could emerge. Sources at Hatnua told Ynet that the issue of a universal draft will be one of the party’s terms to joining the coalition. Kadima might also join (if it holds on to its projected 2 seats). But Livni would want to take steps to energize talks with the Palestinians; Netanyahu might not.
Whatever the case may be, Likud-Beiteinu has indicated that it is likely that the next government will be vastly different from the outgoing one. With 53 new MKs, they’re probably right. Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman posted a message on his Facebook page which read, “We’ll form the next government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu,” but the former foreign minister sounded a somewhat conciliatory tone.
“We shall continue to lead Israel with responsibility and security. The elections force the next government to focus on internal matters, and mainly equal share of the burden, changing the form of government and affordable housing. On the diplomatic level, if the Palestinians show they are willing to meet and restart negotiations we would be happy to meet with them, with no preconditions.”