Open thread: Bibi be gone?
Israelis went to the polls for the second time in five months, an unprecedented act, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition back in April. The results are… well, disordered.
The main opposition, Kahol Lavan, became the largest party in the Knesset. Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc fell short of the magical 61 seats (it won 56 seats). The Arab party surged to 12 seats. And the man who shanked Bibi in April, nationalist-secularist Avigdor Lieberman, got nine seats for his party, Yisrael Beteynu, making him kingmaker.
Although Israeli President Reuben Rivlin will probably ask Benny Gantz, leader of Kahol Lavan, to try and form a government, he’ll have as much trouble as Netanyahu in doing so. He began the night promisingly by calling Joint List leader, Ayman Odeh, and sounding him out on a national unity government. But no Jewish party has ever gone into coalition with an Arab party, and I don’t see it happening this time. Without them or Lieberman, Gantz will also have no obvious route to 61 seats.
Lieberman wants a national unity government composed of Kahol Lavan, Likud, and his party. However, both he and Gantz have said that they won’t serve in a government which includes Netanyahu, which is a problem. Likudniks signed a public pledge promising not to jettison Bibi. Will they break that pledge to stay in government? Likud is a very top-down party, with no procedures for deposing a leader. And Netanyahu, desperate to stave off jail for his myriad corruption, will do anything to stay in power.
Will some Likudniks break away and pledge their votes to a Kahol Lavan government, thus splitting the party? The shelf life of the typical Israeli party is that of milk, so it’s possible.
Or will Israelis have to go to the polls again, and possibly repeat the same results? If you want to see a truly divided society, don’t look to the US, but look to Israel. It is split down the middle.
The one thing which unites secular Israeli Jews is their hatred for the special privileges the ultra-Orthodox receive, such as exemption from the draft and funding so that they can have 12 children. Lieberman scuppered the last attempt to form a government because his price for joining Likud was to pass a bill which would open the ultra-Orthodox to the draft. He’ll have to decide whom he hates more: the Arabs, or the guys with the big hats.
Whomever Pres. Rivlin picks to form a government will have a month to do so. After that? Stay tuned.
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