Back when Benyamin Netanyahu called for new elections he was confident and thought he had made a tactical decision which would not only provide him with a strong coalition, but a comfortable coalition where any of the lesser parties which chose to join being unable to threaten the coalition with a vote of no confidence. He made a couple of serious miscalculations along the way, one before finally calling for new elections and the other subsequent to dissolving his relatively strong coalition confident of a better tomorrow. Netanyahu’s first mistake occurred when he first decided to call for new elections rather than face the difficulties of making a new budget and facing Iran and other threats without a stronger and more stable coalition. He then reversed himself when Kadima, facing possible oblivion if new elections were called, offered to join Netanyahu’s Likud led coalition adding an impressive twenty-eight to the coalition which promised to give it the stability Netanyahu desired. Unfortunately, Shaul Mofaz, the recently elected leader of Kadima, replacing Tzipi Livni, and Netanyahu had a falling out within a couple of months and Kadima pulled out of the coalition which drove Bibi to again call for new elections. There was a short period of indecision and within a week Likud executed a vote of no confidence with coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beyteinu. This excess drama and indecision likely was just the initial sign of weakness and began his problems. Soon after dissolving the coalition, Netanyahu and Lieberman merged their two parties in the hopes of forging an unopposable center-right consensus party. This was the next step in the undoing of Netanyahu’s plan as the religious parties resented Lieberman and Yisrael Beyteinu. Then came the months of waiting for elections which soon became a long march towards mediocrity for the Likud- Beyteinu super party.
Then came the coup de grace during the campaign. For reasons which will be the raw meat for dissecting what not to do in a campaign, the senseless and viscous attacks by numerous members of Likud aimed at the Jewish Home Party, the one party that most observers would have thought would be a natural fit with Likud, inflicted harm on both parties though it appears that Likud was the greater harmed. There were the claims that the lead of Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, was the difficulty as he had once been the Chief of Staff for Bibi which led to a messy split between the two. Some placed the problem with Bibi’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, as the one who had some difficulties with Bennett which drove the spite campaign. Whatever the source, the viciousness and pure undiluted bile heaped on Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home Party drove many away from the Likud-Beyteinu Party as many nationalists were put off and dismayed by the attacks on another nationalist party. The attacks also did result in lower support for the Jewish Home Party as they had been designed to be. The result in the end was a falling off from a combined total of forty-two seats for Likud and Beyteinu in the previous Knesset to thirty-one seats in the new Knesset. This loss of eleven seats not only damaged the power for the new combined party but also will force the Likud-Beyteinu Party to rely on and be susceptible to the whims of even the smallest parties who they will end up depending on to form their coalition. The damage was so complete as to have been just short of the cusp of allowing for a left-leaning coalition being formed blocking Netanyahu from making a coalition and allowing for a social issues coalition instead of what Netanyahu hopes to build, a nationalist and capitalist bent coalition. There are so many good old sayings that could be utilized to cap off this article, but in the spirit of allowing everyone their own freedoms, unlike the mistakes made by Likud-Beyteinu with their limiting attacks, we will allow you to choose your own to finish with your favorite.
Beyond the Cusp
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday scrapped the Plesner Committee, tasked with drafting a replacement for the controversial Tal Law. The committee was in response to a ruling by the Supreme Court striking down the Tal Law removing the longstanding deferment for Hareidim from serving in the IDF or perform public service as other providing they were in full time Torah study, forcing a replacement be found by July 31. This initiated a response from Kadima party chairman, Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, threatening to quit the government if Netanyahu did not follow through with the committee’s recommendations. Mofaz was quoted saying, “I reject the announcement of the prime minister and pledge my full support to Plesner’s committee. The committee was formed by all the parties together, and its unilateral dissolution by the prime minister does not obligate Kadima (to comply. These recommendations are) the basis for any real attempt to fix the historic problem of the unequal burden. If the prime minister chooses not to go in that direction, the national unity government will end.”
This is likely how this story will be presented along with the seeming mandatory references to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his heavy handed, dictatorial style of leading his coalition. Never mind that MK Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu Party walked out of the committee over their refusal to even address a recommendation that Arab Israelis also be included in required IDF or public service the same as the Hareidim as both have similar deferments. Add that Habayit Hayehudi (Hebrew for “Jewish Home”) also decided that they were being shut out and ignored as they also believed that the committee should be at least looking at universally equal treatment under the new law. Shas and United Torah Judaism Hareidim religious parties’ representative Attorney Ya’akov Weinroth also withdrew from the committee though his motivations were considered suspect as he might have been insistent on a new version that would be a carbon copy of the struck down Tal Law. There was an obvious problem with the make-up of the Plesner Committee from the beginning and from this writer’s perspective it did not come down to as much the dictatorial imposition by Prime Minister Netanyahu than it was the attempts to dictate every iota of the new law by the Kadima leadership in the committee and Shaul Mofaz, the leader of Kadima who likely interpreted the mandate given by Benyamin Netanyahu as a license to lord over the committee and write whatever law he pleased while ignoring any input by other Parties’ representatives assigned to the committee. This may be the beginning of a fraying of the coalition as the nationalist and religious parties are not going to ever form a cordial relationship with the liberal members in Kadima. It might even get to a point where the strengthening of the coalition by merging Kadima will lead to Yisrael Beiteinu and numerous of the other current members will depart over the necessary catering that will be required to keep Shaul Mofaz and the Kadima Ministers content. Such an exodus would completely defeat the entire move of folding Kadima into the coalition and could lead to total collapse.
There is one result of dissolving the Plesner Committee which might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. This has presented Prime Minister Netanyahu with a golden egg in the form of Kadima Head Shaul Mofaz threatening to pull Kadima out of the coalition. The first and most obvious result would be to allow him to make good on his threat and continue with the narrower coalition that includes a more homogeneous combination of parties. But the most likely advantage would be for Prime Minister Netanyahu to call Shaul Mofaz’s bluff and once again announce that he plans to call for new election should Kadima depart the coalition. Such a threat would silence Shaul Mofaz as he is fully aware that with new election Kadima loses half of their seats in the Knesset and such a loss is not something Shaul Mofaz desires or could survive. Such an occurrence might very well cause a vote of no confidence by the membership of Kadima and a new election to choose a new party chairman. Sometimes it is best not to scream too loudly in public when the soapbox you’re standing on has broken boards and is about to collapse.
Beyond the Cusp