Netanyahu’s New Mega-Coalition (FrontPageMagazine.com) by P. David Hornik 05/10/12)
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So Israel has a new mega-coalition of 94 out of 120 Knesset members.
The news early Tuesday morning stunned a country that was already in
elections mode for a presumed September 4 contest. No pundit foresaw
the mega-coalition or had an inside track on it.
For both of the main protagonists in the deal—Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Kadima Party leader Shaul Mofaz—it makes eminent
sense.While all polls showed Netanyahu easily emerging triumphant
again from the putative elections, the deal saves him—and the country—
the trouble and debilities of having to prepare for them, not to
mention prolonged coalition negotiations once the results would have
As for Mofaz—who wrested leadership of Kadima from Tzipi Livni in a
primary less than two months ago—the polls showed his party
plummeting, had elections been held, from its current 28 seats to
about a dozen. While Kadima’s fate in the October 2013 (when
Netanyahu’s four-year term runs out) elections will not necessarily
be better, Mofaz—whom the deal makes deputy prime minister and member
of the Forum of Eight (now nine) ministers, Israel’s highest
policymaking body—gets a chance to make more of an impact on a public
never particularly impressed with him.
But apart from Netanyahu and Mofaz, the deal—by creating a massive
coalition immune to extortionate pressures by small parties—holds
great potential for the country.
For two of Israel’s most intractable problems—refusal of military or
national service by most of its growing ultra-Orthodox population,
and dysfunctionalities of its parliamentary system—solutions are now
eminently possible. In their joint press conference on Tuesday,
Netanyahu and Mofaz pledged that the new coalition would tackle these
issues without offering any specifics.
The problems are indeed complex. The draft exemptions for the ultra-
Orthodox, which are contingent on yeshiva study, not only sow
bitterness among the army-serving public but lead to large-scale
unemployment among ultra-Orthodox men and a growing, worrisome drain
on the economy. To date, ultra-Orthodox parties in fragile coalitions
have prevented possible solutions. For the mega-coalition, though,
the path appears clear to legislating some sort of mandatory service
and remedying this longstanding malady.
This being linked, of course, to the issue of a parliamentary system
that allows small parties of various—not just ultra-Orthodox—
descriptions to proliferate and wield disproportionate influence.
Again, the new coalition stands a real chance to cure the illness.
Raising the electoral threshold and introducing regional elections
are two often-mentioned ideas. Israel could emerge as a better-
functioning, more representational democracy with much more stable
governments.But serious as some of Israel’s domestic problems are,
they are overshadowed by the existential threat of a nuclear Iran,
and it’s in that regard that the new coalition most significantly
enhances Netanyahu’s status.
It does so, for one thing, by adding Mofaz—a former chief of staff
and defense minister, and of Iranian background to boot—to the top
governmental echelon. Netanyahu says he’s consulted with Mofaz on
Iran for years. And while Mofaz—noted as a politician for his flip-
flops including a good deal of Bibi-bashing—hasn’t always been
consistent on the Iranian issue, he said in April that
allowing Iran to obtain even a civilian nuclear capability would
change the balance of power in the Middle East…. If we see Iran
getting closer to a military nuclear capability and the US acting
against its own interest and allowing a sword on our neck, I will be
the first to support Israel taking action.
And more generally, the mega-coalition strengthens Netanyahu’s hand
in the international arena by making it unmistakably clear that the
country is behind him. That was already evident on Wednesday when
Netanyahu—together with Mofaz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—unequivocally told EU foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton in Jerusalem that nothing short of a
total cessation of Iran’s uranium enrichment is acceptable to Israel.
No longer will the voices of disgruntled ex-Israeli officials, or New
York Times headlines trumpeting supposed Israeli dissension on Iran,
carry any weight.
It should now be clear that, however Bibi-bashing may be a sport
among carping Israelis, world leaders, Israel-bashing American Jews
like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart, and the like, the Israeli
people as a whole appreciate a leader who has bolstered and
stabilized Israel’s economy, thrown Palestinian rejectionism into
sharp relief, and generally maintained the country’s—albeit
precarious—security. Bibi-bashing won’t cut it anymore. Netanyahu
represents Israel and now has the strongest mandate possible to do
whatever needs to be done. (Copyright © 2012 FrontPageMagazine.com
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