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Herzog and Netanyahu are likely to share power — because Herzog won’t share it with Arab List

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Chemi Shalev of Haaretz and Daniel Levy agree about the likely outcome of the Israeli elections. Rightwing Likud and the center-left Zionist Union will form a coalition. Levy explains that they will do so because the Arab List can’t be included in the governing coalition.

Shalev:

My assessment (current polls, no responsibility whatsoever) Bibi goes home, Herzog heads national unity, perhaps with rotation with Likud

Levy at the European CFR says this will come to pass because “the parties supported by the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel have been traditionally deemed unworthy coalition partners (a real Achilles heel of Israeli democracy and its lack of inclusivity).”

Three principal variations on coalition composition suggest themselves.

1.       A Netanyahu-led narrow, rightist government. This would see the Prime Minister stay in power with his more natural right-wing and religious allies forming a governing block with the Jewish Home Party of Naftali Bennett, the party of outgoing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, albeit a much diminished force, with the traditional ultra-Orthodox parties of Shas and the United Torah Judaism.But to get a majority of 61 seats, Netanyahu would also have to win over his former Likud colleague and now rival, Moshe Kahlon. It would be a prospect Kahlon is not enthusiastic about, and would likely exacerbate many of Israel’s problems with the international community, including with Israel’s closest allies. …

2.       A Herzog-led narrow, non-rightist coalition. This still looks extremely tricky and perhaps impossibly heterogeneous cobble. If Herzog and his potential allies were willing to work with the joint Arab List (a joint list of the three parties that have garnered the Palestinian-Israeli vote in recent elections, currently getting at least a dozen seats in the polls) whether as a formal part of a coalition or supporting the government with a set of understandings from the outside (a kind of confidence and supply arrangement) then the task would be easier. But the parties supported by the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel have been traditionally deemed unworthy coalition partners (a real Achilles heel of Israeli democracy and its lack of inclusivity). Barring an arrangement with the Joint Arab List, Herzog would somehow have to bring together the centrist Yair Lapid and his anti-clerical bent together with the ultra-Orthodox and the soft right of Moshe Kahlon, together with the secular party Meretz (or, alternatively, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party). The Zionist camp, Lapid, Meretz, Kahlon, Shas, and United Torah Judaism together would pass the 61 coalition threshold but it would be a remarkable feat to pull off. Only if Herzog can build around a 4-plus seat margin over Likud, might it give the sense of a popular mandate to form such a coalition and to persuade the constituent parts to sign up.

3.       A Grand Coalition. The third and perhaps most likely option is a national unity coalition. That would see a coalition based around the Likud and Zionist camp, most likely led by Netanyahu although possibly on the basis of a rotation. The coalition numbers would then be filled out by a combination of Lapid, Kahlon and perhaps Lieberman and/or ultra-Orthodox. Labour would insist on excluding the Jewish Home and Yishai’s Kahanists, while Likud would make the same demand vis-à-vis Meretz. The Joint Arab List would likely be excluded from all sides. But even a grand coalition would be a hard sell within the respective Likud and Labour movements.

Again: “The Joint Arab List would likely be excluded from all sides.” I.e., Israel is a Jewish state, and Jewish parties make up the government, even when Palestinians make up nearly 20 percent of the population. Jim Crow. Not to be a doomsayer, but… Levy says there won’t be any real change in peace negotiations:

On the Palestinian front neither of the two main blocks have come up with anything resembling a coherent programmatic plan. Herzog has suggested he would work with the Egyptians to re-launch peace talks with the Palestinians. But the Zionist camp has also defined Israel’s problem as more one of image and reputation than the occupation itself  and policy substance, which suggests more investment will be made in making Israel appear better rather than definitively grappling with the occupation issue itself. The choice would seem to be between a doubling down on existing settlement and occupation policy, paralysis, or an attempt at some forward movement that would likely fall well short of a comprehensive deal and de-occupation. A centre-left government could pursue unilateral options alongside attempts at negotiations with the Palestinians and would likely be less provocative in the settlement arena, in withholding PA taxes, and in other punitive measures….If Herzog does become Prime Minister, the challenge for the international community will be to translate good will into meaningful change, something that Herzog’s government will not automatically embrace. And of course much will depend on what strategies the Palestinians themselves pursue.

Journalist Tal Schneider formerly of Maariv agrees with Levy. Here she is talking with Ori Nir of Peace Now about a candidates’ forum a few days ago. In two hours of candidate statements, the word peace was only mentioned near the very end, and that by Ayman Odeh of the Arab List. But “peace” used to be everywhere in elections, and in all the party slogans, Ori Nir says.

And Schneider explains how rightwing Israeli public opinion is [minute 23]:

Because of the war during the summer… Israeli people … they’re not looking at this Palestinian state as a state at peace with Israel…. It’s sad to day, but this is the reality right now. When you see the neighboring countries [Egypt, Syria, Kurds, Isis]… I think at best people are happy that the Palestinians are not rioting… Peace is not mentioned here on a regular basis anyways. And it will take a leader or something else in order to bring it back into the discourse. I don’t really see that happening in the near future. Because I feel like even if Herzog is elected and is the prime minister, and he is trying to change the discourse, you need a very vast public support to do something. And I don’t see the Israeli public right now supporting anything.

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Last January one of the IDF companies that was based near Gaza said that they were pulling out. The people who lived near by went crazy and the thought that they would be at the mercy of the terra tunnels (cuz they’d been whipped into a frenzy by their government.) Th defense people said they did not have enough money to keep the troops on duty there. That same week the government transfered 70,000,000 shekels… Read more »

How freaking depressing… I liked Gideon Levy’s musings much better: “…What better option is there for the Israeli voter who can no longer bear the occupation in the territories and the ultranationalism within Israel, of the ruse that Israel is both Jewish and democratic, of the injustices of present-day Zionism, and who perhaps has reached the conclusion that the two-state solution is dead? Who will they vote for? Are there many other party heads as… Read more »

Yesh Atid and Kulanu, the two supposedly “centrist” parties have both ruled out being with Arabs. Without an Arab party, Labor has no way out. Lieberman is never going to go with them. Labor needs Likud but Likud does not need Labor. Bibi isn’t going to go anywhere. Nobody can replace him from Likud. Shalev is just speaking drivel, channeling his own wishful thinking. If Likud ends up with Labor it’ll be beacause Bibi wants… Read more »

Israeli calls for nuclear strikes on Iran and Germany:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/op-ed-calls-on-israel-to-nuke-germany-iran/

Hurr durr, who was the danger to world peace again?

Herzog was grilled at the Saban Conference, by Haim Saban himself, about how his numbers didn’t look like they could add up, right – left, and he was fascinating to watch and listen to. The gist was that it is a mistake to look at the parties by a simple left-right divide, as we tend to in the US. It is coalition building, a process we don’t generally use. Minister-slots or other promises to keep… Read more »