By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
I’m pleased that I was wrong about the expected meteoric ascendance of Naftali Bennet and his party Habayit Hayehudi; my pessimism got the better of me. But I still see Bennet as Netanyahu’s natural successor. He and his party are most likely to be in the government as influential advocates of settlement expansion and a bit of a light counterweight to ultra-Orthodox Shas; the latter was vehement in its attacks on Habayit Hayehudi during the election campaign.
I’m also pleased to have overestimated Likud-Beiteinu as part of my fears about the electoral success of the political right. It became clear in the course of the campaign that the joint ticket of Netanyahu’s Likud and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu was a mistake, particularly on the part of Netanyahu. Both parties had more mandates in the previous Knesset and might have done better separately. They’ll probably continue to live together with Netanyahu as prime minister because both want to be in the government, but the quality of the relationship is unclear and full marriage less likely.
If the next government is to consist only of the right-wing, its margin in the Knesset will be very thin and its credibility abroad shaky. Netanyahu would probably want a more centrist party to join him. As Labor – based on its bitter experience last time under Ehud Barak when it did join and broke up as a result – said that it wouldn’t, there’re only two left: Yesh Atid and Hatenuah.
Together with almost everybody else, I’m surprised about the victory of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Compared to the natural right-wing parties, this one is more in the centre but probably not left enough to make a big difference. Lapid is said to be anxious to be part of the next government but in view of his anti-Orthodox views, that’s going to be difficult; he’d have to compromise – which, of course, he seems to be capable of.
If he doesn’t join the government, he’ll be the leader of the opposition (a role that Sheli Yachimovitch and Labor had envisaged) which may give his inexperienced people opportunities to learn how parliament works and be ready for the next round, which, without Yesh Atid or Hatenuah in the government may come sooner rather than later.
Unlike some other predictions I read in the course of the campaign, I never assumed that Tzipi Livni’s Hatenuah would come to dominate. Lapid being new and untainted by a previous political career and having basically the same vague platform appears to have been more attractive to the electorate. Will Livni be Netanyahu’s partner?
The elections may be over, but the speculations are already beginning about the composition of the new government. By all accounts, once in place it’ll have a rough ride ahead, not so much internationally – despite the expected pressure from Obama to go easy onIranand warm to the Palestinians – as economically. Drastic cuts with the unpleasant consequences seem inevitable and bad economic conditions don’t make for a popular government. The question is whether Lapid and Livni will be so keen to have access to power that they’ll be prepared to pay the price of compromise and unpopularity.
The above is, of course, based on uninformed impressions, not on knowledge. Reading the papers and watching TV makes for more confusion than wisdom. However, the prospects are sufficiently intriguing and tempting to want to stick one’s neck out and keep guessing. The above is an illustration.