By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
No single political party can rule Israel. That’s why party blocks are emerging. On the right, Likud under Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi under Bennett are natural coalition partners, despite their reported difficult personal relations.
The position of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu is more complex. He’s the natural ally of the two others. However, in view of the scandals that currently surround his party, it’s likely to be greatly reduced in the next election. Some say that it won’t even make the cut for minimum representation of four Knesset members.
With that in mind, Likud seems to want to encroach on the “Russian” voters who’ve been Lieberman’s mainstay thus hoping to keep him out of the Knesset. He, on the other hand, is full of feigned or real confidence and has announced that he expects to be the minister of defense in the next Netanyahu government. The incumbent Moshe Ya’alon, he says, may have been a good chief of staff, but he doesn’t think he’s much of a defense minister, which may be his way of saying that Israel should be even tougher on the Palestinians in the territories, as they’re under military control. (He, like Bennett, would also like to be tougher on Israel’s Arabs; if possible, he’d like to expel them altogether and allow them to move their towns and villages to the Palestinian territory.)
The left-centre block with Herzog and Livni has fewer natural allies other than perhaps the left-wing Meretz, which isn’t expected to get more than four-five seats. The Arab parties normally supported that kind of government (even though they never wanted or got any ministerial posts), but this time Herzog may have alienated them by sort-of supporting that barring of one of them (Zuabi) for anti-Israel activities.
This means that much will hinge on the various ultra-Orthodox parties. They’d normally go to the highest bidder and sit in any government that pays handsomely for their institutions and protects their young men from military service. But this time, some have already declared which side they’re going to support. And it doesn’t look particularly promising for the left-centre, even though yet another poll published yesterday puts Herzog-Livni well ahead of Netanyahu.
Things remain volatile and get complicated because of all kinds of infighting. The most interesting at the moment is Netanyahu’s attack on the publisher of Yediot Achronot, the major tabloid in severe competition with Yisrael Hayom, the freebee that Netanyahu’s friend Sheldon Adelson pays for. The latter is clearly just a propaganda sheet for the current prime minister. The outcome of that battle may also tilt the final outcome on March 17 making Herzog-Livni losers in the crossfire.
Please watch this space for more confusing news.