Beyond the Cusp

October 26, 2012

Israeli Political Merger May Benefit More than Netanyahu and Lieberman

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman held a press conference this afternoon to announce that the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu will present a joint ticket in the upcoming Israeli elections scheduled for January. There have been numerous reactions, most have been rather predictable. Meretz Party, the Israeli communist style party, Minister of the Knesset Zehava Galon condemned the merger claiming that it was simply a unification of the forces of “fascism” within Israel. She was quoted as saying, “When each element is a separate party, there is a ‘balance of fear’ between them. Together, it gives the message that there is a bloc that will continue its incitement against the left and the Arabs. The fascism of Likud’s back benches is now taking center stage.” She labeled the possible government run by a coalition headed by the new merged parties “a Biberman government.” MK Zehava Galon concluded her statements by making a plea for all of Israel to unite and defeat the new party and permit her to lead a sane and reasoned leadership stating, “Likud has turned into a strategic threat to the democratic character of Israel and whoever wants to preserve this character must commit, right now, that he will not join the Biberman government.”

Not to be outdone, Labor Party leader, unofficial opposition leader, and Minister of the Knesset Shelly Yechimovich also had some opinions, or maybe they should be called prophesies of doom. In her interview on Channel 2 news, she declared, “I call upon all of the centrist forces on the Israeli political map to join the Labor party under my leadership, which is the only centrist party today, in order to prevent the Lieberman-Netanyahu party from ruling. I also call upon the numerous people who lost their political home today; Likud voters, moderate nationalists who see the government’s brutal economic policy; to join Labor.” MK Shelly Yechimovich concluded in her interview that she “cannot imagine” agreeing to be part of a coalition with such an “extreme right, racist” party.

The National Union Party had a far more muted reaction and simply gave a press release stating, “Likud has just delivered a divorce decree to its traditional and religious voters.” With predictions placing the new party likely to collect approximately fifty seats in the next election for the Knesset where sixty-one seats is the minimum required to form a coalition, unless the merged Likud and Yisrael Beitenu Parties manage significantly better results they will require other parties to join a coalition, and that may place them pretty much where the two parties are currently, depending on religious parties and/or special interest parties to make a coalition. Should the prediction that some of the more religiously oriented or more moderate members of Likud decide to run in another ticket, they may actually end up in a more dependent position than they currently enjoy or would have enjoyed had they simply left things as they currently sit and simply made an agreement between Netanyahu and Lieberman. It is far more likely that all of the current Ministers in the Knesset from each party will remain in the merged entity rather than risk receiving a sufficiently high placement on another party’s list. It will be a case of a bird in the hand beats two in the bush. Where the difference and any problems may arise will be in the voting as it is likely that some of the religious wing in Likud may bolt and vote for one of the religious parties. This means that the national religious parties could be the real beneficiaries of this merger. The real question that will be interesting is what does this do to the plans and all the work that has been invested in attempting to merge the national religious parties with the same idea of strengthening their possibilities through unity instead of competing for the same block of voters. Preliminary polling had shown they would garner between three and five additional seats in the Knesset. Should the national religious parties follow through with their combined list and gain the numbers predicted, it would present a possible coalition with only two parties, each one a merged union of allied former adversaries. And you thought the United States Presidential and Congressional Elections were full of intrigue, wild accusations, unpredictability, uncertainty and the possibility of a wild finish that may rival the 2000 drama between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Mind you, if the Israeli elections ended up in the Supreme Court the outcome would not necessarily reflect the voters as the Israeli Supreme Court has been full of surprises and at times has appeared to try to rule the country by overruling the Knesset, Prime Minister, and often even the will of the majority of Israelis.

Beyond the Cusp

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