Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

For Netanyahu, a Narrower Victory

January 23, 2013 10:12 am 1 comment

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90

Benyamin Netanyahu will again be prime minister, but with a much-weakened political base after yesterday’s national election. His Likud Party, allied with the mainly Russian immigrant party of Avigdor Liberman, lost one-third of its Knesset seats, due in part to Liberman’s being under the shadow of indictment on rather thin charges by a politicized Attorney-General.

The “not-Likud” vote splintered in two directions, and to two political newcomers: to Netanyahu’s center-left is Yair Lapid’s There Is a Future Party, with about 19 seats, while to his center-right is Naftali Bennett’s resurgent national-religious party, with 11 or 12 seats. Lapid did somewhat better than recent polls were predicting, while Bennett fared somewhat worse. But in order to form a government, Netanyahu will likely have to build a coalition around at least one, or likely both, of these parties. If the final tally gives Likud 31 seats, Lapid 19 seats, and Bennett 11, Netanyahu could not form a government without bringing in another party.

Netanyahu would probably like to ally with one of the two Haredi parties, either Shas, with 11 seats, or United Torah, with 7. But it is hard to see how either party could co-exist in a government with Lapid’s, as their positions on perks to Haredim are diametrically opposed. That leaves the option of Tzipi Livni’s breakaway party, which won 6 seats.

A government including Likud, Lapid and Livni would have a strong emphasis on domestic issues, while likely leaving security policies unchanged. The addition of Bennett would reinforce this trend, though it would anchor security policies to the right. In that case the agenda would be housing reform, a new draft law to incorporate at least some of the Haredim, and a stance against new concessions to the Palestinians.

Each of these agenda points is achievable and enjoys substantial support beyond the confines of these four parties.
Just days before the election, Netanyahu announced he was handing the housing portfolio to one of the young Likud whiz kids, Moshe Kachlon, a 40-year-old technocrat who successfully reformed the country’s telecommunications sector. While real estate is more complicated, a Likud-Lapid-Bennett-Livni coalition would have both the political will and the managerial expertise to act. If successful, it would co-opt the focus of the Labor Party (17 seats) on economic reform.

On the Haredi draft, Lapid and Bennett have differing, but not necessarily irreconcilable positions. Lapid favors universal conscription into some type of national service, while Bennett favors a protected sector for a certain percentage of young Torah scholars. A new law could also mandate a more observance-friendly IDF, with more religious-majority units.

There is also a need to accelerate integration of Haredi youth into Israel’s high-tech business sector, where, for example, one-in-seven employees of Intel Corporation in Israel is already Haredi. In other words, a formula must be found to reach out to the existing desire of rank-and-file Haredim to participate in Israel’s economy and national service, despite the resistance of Haredi leadership, while leaving them free to retain their religious identity and lifestyle.

In the weeks to come there will be the inevitable posturing, posing and grandstanding amongst the various coalition contenders, and certainly a variety of other outcomes is possible. But the center of political gravity today stretches from Netanyahu, left to Lapid, and right to Bennett, and bodes well for the stability of the country, as well as a stable Netanyahu government.

A centrist coalition led by Netanyahu would do much to dispel the reports and speculation emanating from Washington recently that the third-term prime minister, or the Israeli electorate, do not know what is in Israel’s best interest, and are leading the country to “near-total diplomatic isolation.” These reports reflect mainly upon the likelihood that it is President Obama himself who would not like to lend Israel his diplomatic support.

And it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Washington’s 11th-hour intervention did not contribute to the weakening of Netanyahu. With the president’s recent nomination of “a flock of doves” to foreign policy and security positions, and his highly ideological second inaugural address, Netanyahu will clearly be under full assault by progressives, both foreign and domestic.

Benyamin Korn is a veteran Anglo-Jewish journalist and political activist.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Food Spirituality/Tradition ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

    ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah – Babka. Strudel. Stollen. Danish pastry. Not to mention Gugelhopf and Charlotte. The names set the mouth to watering and conjure up lovingly concocted pastries that feed the body and comfort the soul. If you didn’t have a grandmother who baked these delicacies, you wish that you had. George Greenstein was never a grandmother, but his life as a baker provided his children and grandchildren with memories infused with the smell of fresh baked bread and rugelach. His daughters, Julia […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’

    Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’ – There is a game that all of us have played at some time in our lives. We ask ourselves: What would my life be like if I had gone to this school instead of that one, or if I had married this girl instead of that one? In their newly published book The Ambassador, authors Yehuda Avner and Matt Rees play that game with modern Jewish history. Avner — who died earlier this year, and was a speechwriter, secretary and adviser to […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Lifestyle A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A unique group of young fashion bloggers and designers recently visited Israel to learn more about the country’s fashion industry and diverse culture. Hailing from the Philippines, Korea, Kenya, Japan, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K., the 10 participants toured the country and met with top Israeli fashion designers throughout last week. “It was an amazing experience,” said Meissene Maghni from Toulouse, France — one of the participants of the program. “I’m Muslim and I really wanted to see Israel […]

    Read more →