Bibi’s Big Win Reax


Michael Koplow summarizes everyone's reaction to the bombshell news that Israel's opposition leader, Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, has joined Bibi's government:

First of all, wow. The deal to form a Likud-Kadima government is a master stroke by Bibi Netanyahu, who now gets to avoid dealing with elections and having to make a bunch of imperfect choices in putting together a coalition, while also seizing on the fact that nearly 3/4 of Israelis want to see the Tal Law [exemption from military service for the ultra-orthodox] gone for good. He isn’t giving up anything, gets to cut Yair Lapid off at the knees, and strengthens his bid as the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation. This is an enormous win for him.

Noam Sheizaf gives essential context:

What made this move possible? In my opinion, there were two elements at play: Kadima crashed in the polls after Mofaz’s victory in the party’s primaries a couple of months ago, and the new party leader was under considerable pressure to give its 27 Knesset members another year in the parliament. Mofaz probably hopes that the coming months will help him position himself as a national leader, but I am not sure that the Israeli public will ever look favorably upon someone who changed his position so many times. Still, stopping the steady rise of other opposition leaders – most notably, former Channel 2 anchorman Yair Lapid – probably makes this move worthwhile for Mofaz.

JJ Goldberg declares victory for the peace camp:

[The deal] gives Mofaz a seat in the inner security cabinet, which gives him a voice in shaping policy toward both Iran and the Palestinians. If you haven’t been following, Mofaz has been defending Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin in their criticisms of Netanyahu’s policies over the past year. He’s outspokenly opposed to attacking Iran at this stage. His own Palestinian plan, announced in 2009 and lately gaining increasing favor among fellow security types, calls for immediate recognition of a Palestinian state with provisional borders, controlling 60% of the West Bank for now, followed promptly by state-to-state negotiations toward a final-status agreement. To allay Palestinian suspicions that the provisional borders would be the final ones, Israel would deposit a pledge with the United States that the final borders will be based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps.

Dalia Scheindlin nods:

The main towering advantage of postponing the elections until late 2013 is that it ensures only another year and a half of one of the worst governments Israel has ever had – a government that drove hundreds of thousands to the streets in economic desperation, pushed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict past the point of no return, and explicitly set out to mutilate Israel’s democratic process and what remained of its democratic character. If elections were held in four months, all polls bar none showed a resounding Likud victory, the same majority for the right-wing bloc, and ergo – probably a very similar government for another four years. Whatever terrible damage a super-sized coalition majority can do – it’s better to have this for 18 months, than for up to four more years.

Aluf Benn isn't so sure:

Now, Netanyahu is at his most comfortable. Instead of been dependant on the mood swings of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Likud's right-wing representatives, he has a coalition with two wings, between which he can maneuver. At times he'll break right, at others left, all according to the needs of the moment. He can throw a bone to Lieberman and then to Mofaz; build a settlement and evacuate illegal structures. At times he’ll indicate that war with Iran is near and at others he'll give U.S. President Barack Obama's diplomatic overtures a chance. No politician can dream up of a more perfect situation.

Goldblog, who also runs down seven theories about Bibi's motivations, looks east:

If the reports out of Israel are true, this means no election September 4, and it means that Netanyahu can proceed apace with whatever he's thinking about doing re: Iran's nuclear sites.

Jonathan Tobin gloats:

As for relations with the United States, while this development puts an end to the October surprise scenario in which a re-elected Netanyahu would have had two months to hit Iran while President Obama was still running for re-election, as I had already written, there wasn’t much chance that would happen. But with a unity government and the polls giving him overwhelming approval, Netanyahu has all the backing he needs to fend off any pressure from Washington in the next year and a half on either the Palestinian or the Iranian front. Liberal Zionists and Obama administration officials who have dreamed of Netanyahu’s defeat are just going to need to learn to live with him.

Robert Danin points to a potential point of weakness in the new coalition:

Netanyahu’s greatest challenge could emerge from elements within the country not represented in the Knesset: the social protest movement. Last summer, Israel witnessed unprecedented social protests that brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets for a number of months. These demonstrators rallied against skyrocketing housing and living costs, government corruption, and increased income disparities. In recent days, the grass-roots leadership of the social movement had begun to be courted by some of Israel’s political parties in the hope that these largely unaffiliated demonstrators could be mobilized behind the traditional parties. With elections no longer impending, the social activists may see the only alternative open to them this summer as being a return to the streets. Such a development will be no boon to Netanyahu’s free-market oriented Likud could leave the prime minister wishing he had proceeded with his plan to hold early elections at a time when a relatively easy victory appeared almost assured.

Brent Sasley throws up his hands:

[I]t’s hard to predict at this point how things will go. Much depends on whether the coalition partners can keep it together; on the American elections; on developments in Iran; and so on. We need a little more time to make durable arguments about the future.

(Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and centrist Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz (R) attend a joint press conference in the Knesset to announce a coalition deal between the parties, on May 08, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. The pair announced that their Unity government would bring stability to Israel and the peace process. It is expected that Mofaz will become deputy prime minister. By Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images.)