There are glimmerings of light in the Israeli governing negotiations. Some commentators are dreaming of the collapse of Netanyahu’s defense line, the 55 legislators who have sworn to stick by him, due to recent setbacks: the prime minister’s pre-indictment hearing, his failure to form a government after two weeks, and rival Benny Gantz’s ability to hold the line against defectors.
Yossi Alpher at Peace Now imagines the ultra-orthodox in Netanyahu’s bloc– as many as 16 seats — coming over to a coalition with Gantz’s Blue and White party now that Yair Lapid, a secular leader in Blue White, has promised not to be prime minister in rotation.
Since Lapid is anathema to the ultra-Orthodox due to his insistence on reducing their religious privileges, this could help Gantz recruit one or both of the ultra-Orthodox parties to the coalition he will try to form. That would breach Gantz’s promise of a secular government but honor his pledge not to partner with Netanyahu.
Israel Policy Forum’s Abe Silberstein sees Blue and White “in government” soon— once Likud’s politicians mutiny against Netanyahu. They would replace Netanyahu with a “generic” member of his Likud party, such as Gideon Sa’ar, and it would be easy for Likud and Blue and White to make a majority governing coalition.
The path to a coalition government is thus already paved: a center-right “unity” government with Likud and Kachol Lavan [Blue and White] would have a parliamentary majority, perhaps bolstered by Yisrael Beteinu [Avigdor Lieberman’s party, with 8 seats] and what remains of the Labor Party [6 seat]. The lingering obstacle is Netanyahu
It’s worth restating that Israeli society only moved further right in this election. The ideological differences between Likud and Blue and White “are not nearly as wide as previous coalition government partnerships,” Silberstein says. The Jewish left has 11 seats at best, and that includes politicians who supported the decimation of Gaza.
Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street acknowledged the reality last month:
While the positions of Blue and White on the Palestinian issue are still up in the air, any government that includes so many right-wing leaders and MKs is very unlikely to accept a move away from permanent occupation or toward a two-state solution.
It also needs to be repeated that this allegedly broad coalition will not include Palestinian partners. They’re not just left out, at a time when many have offered to support a centrist government. Everyone is running against Palestinians in the coalition talks. The kingmaker in the election, Avigdor Lieberman, is openly Arab-baiting. So is Likud, saying Lieberman refuses to say he will vote against a coalition based on Arab seats, not just seek to prevent such an outcome. Netanyahu has repeatedly warned, Blue and White will form a “dangerous government dependent on Arab parties.”
Rather than denounce Netanyahu for race-baiting, Blue and White has been determined to show it will not be dependent on Arab parties. Here is Moshe Ya’alon, a rightwing member of Blue and White, when asked a month ago, Will you have Arabs in your coalition?
We claim that the best coalition should consist of Blue and White and Likud. Yisrael Beteinu will come with us.
Translation: no Arabs. Yisrael Beteinu refuses to serve alongside Arabs governing partners. Ya’alon explained that a “broad” coalition means a Jewish one.
We claim that Israel should have been Jewish and democratic. Those who agree with us and will follow our proposals, plans, platforms, might be partners. We have our principles, and we call on all who are willing to join us on the basis of our principles to be part of a broad coalition.
So again, Palestinians simply don’t count. This commentary in a Zionist publication doesn’t even mention the Palestinian parties when it’s considering all the puzzle pieces.
The next government is going to be more rightwing on Gaza too.
Avigdor Lieberman says that as part of his coalition negotiations he is seeking a “solution” to Gaza. Those words surely scare Palestinians. Moshe Ya’alon echoed that, speaking to 124 a month ago: Netanyahu has refused to do any escalation in Gaza for political reasons. Netanyahu has been “restrained” since spring 2018. “We are going to change it.” How? Ya’alon calls for targeted assassinations.
Hawkishness is trending in Israel. Here in the same vein is Yossi Alpher of Peace Now saying that Netanyahu’s political selfishness is undermining security, because the political chaos is encouraging Iran, and it may well attack Israel. And Israel will be all alone. “Israeli civilian rear and infrastructure could suffer truly serious casualties. Israel’s anti-missile defense systems could be overwhelmed.”
Update: Palestinian parties feature in this analysis of Israeli coalition building by Eli Kowaz, but as a bargaining chip. An implicit threat by the left to include Arab parties in the voting support for a governing coalition would cause Likud members to defect from Netanyahu at last so as to block such a possibility.