Cross Posted at The Progressive Zionist (www.progressivezionist.com) and check out my related blog at the Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com...
As the coalition building process wears on, a few things become obvious.
The first is that Tzipi Livni and HaTanuah have effectively counted themselves out of Israeli politics should there ever be new elections. Her racing to join Likud in coalition in return for the Justice Ministry (and the ceremonial Head of Negotiations with Palestinians team) plus the Environmental Portfolio AND the Head of the Knesset House Committee and willingness to toss away all of her pre-election promises renders her irrelevant.
Sure, she could have argued that at least moderate forces got those ministries (particularly Justice and the Environment) which might otherwise fall into the hands of Rightist "hacks" determined to follow Likud's hoped for economic policy patterned on Republican Randian Economics, but, that is easily disputed as seen by Likud-Betainu's protests about her impinging on "Rightist Legislation" (to quote Likud MK Ofir Akunis). Not too mention that her party is already struggling due to communication issues within the party (According to Haaretz):
During the meeting, Livni told those present that contrary to reports in the media, she has not yet decided Hatnuah's second minister. She also told the MKs that she and Netanyahu had not yet agreed on which committee would be given to her faction or which Knesset member would be its chairperson.
Not all of Hatnuah's MKs were pleased with Livni's actions in signing the coalition agreement.
"Livni didn't tell the Knesset members in advance that she had reached agreements with Netanyahu," a party official said, "and she told the media she had signed before the members knew about it.
"The way Amram Mitzna was treated won't go by quietly, either," he added. "The fact that Amir Peretz behaves in this party as if it were his own, making Livni break an earlier agreement she had with Mitzna, is wrong. Mitzna should be the next minister from the party." As soon as the meeting was over, Livni held a private meeting with Mitzna on the matter.
The next thing we know is that either to join the government, either Yesh Atid or Habayit HaYehudi (particularly HaBayit HaYehudi) is going to have radically change at least part of their core platform principle. For instance, Jewish Home is committed to Annexing Area C of the West Bank and then keeping Areas A & B, as "Autonomous areas" linked through new high speed roads. Of course, while this goes along great with the new Rightist Likud it doesn't jive with the Prime Ministers very public statement reiterating his Bar-Ilan speech, which commits him to Two States, nor does it fit with the new coalition agreement that PM Netanyahu signed with HaTanuah and Tzipi Livni. As Naftali Bennett (Head of HaBayit HaYehudi) said (Again according to Haaretz):
"We've come to serve the nation in any fashion, from the coalition or the opposition," Bennett told a meeting of his party's convention in Jerusalem on Wednesday. "The only question is what this government's path will be: buying political time, or truly coping with fundamental problems? If the new government is interested in tackling the nation of Israel's real problems, we're in. But if the goal is to buy more time, we won't be. And that's not a disaster."
Regarding Livni, he said that he's "not interested" in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas or any of the other PA officials who might negotiate with her. "What interests me is the nation of Israel - not Abu Mazen [Abbas], Abu Ala [Ahmed Qureia] or who knows who else will sit with Livni," he said. "They're not interesting. We're at a historic crossroads, and the ball is in the prime minister's court: Will we hold onto the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, or will we entrust the negotiations to someone who has already offered to divide the city of Jerusalem and conceded [the West Bank settlement bloc of Ariel?"
But also both parties Yesh Atid AND Jewish Home are even at odds with their own proposals on how to handle the Occupation and are only united in a desire to see some form of National Service happen. Of course then this precludes the joining of Shas and UTJ, unless Likud can work out some kind of compromise.
Now Likud has tried and drafted up a new compromise plan. However, BOTH Yesh Atid and Habayit HaYehudi have rejected that plan (according to Haaretz)stating:
The plan, proposed by the head of Netanyahu's National Economic Council, Prof. Eugene Kandel, sets a goal of drafting 60 percent of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) men aged 18 to 24 within five years. But critics say it lacks teeth.
Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi had previously announced that they oppose the plan, and on Wednesday they were joined by Kadima. At a meeting with Netanyahu, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz said he couldn't join a government whose proposal on the Haredi draft issue was akin to the one over which he quit Netanyahu's second government last summer.
Moreover, most of Hatnuah - the one party with which Netanyahu has so far signed a coalition agreement - is also expected to oppose the plan.
Thus if all these parties stand firm, Netanyahu will have trouble forming a coalition without agreeing to significantly tougher measures to get Haredi men into the army. Currently, 33 MKs - from Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi and Kadima - have broadly agreed on the outlines of a much tougher plan than Kandel's. The Kandel plan is so far supported only by Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu's 31 MKs.
Well then, what's on the horizon? Right now the Likud Betainu coalition has 37 MK's. 31 from Likud-Betainu and 6 from HaTanuah. Even with both Haredi parties the best they can get to is 55 (11 from Shas and 7 from UTJ). To get there they would need either Labor, Yesh Atid, HaBayit HaYehudi, Meretz OR the Arab Parties to join the coalition. One can pretty much count out the Arab Parties and Meretz. That leaves Labor. There is no way that this would be a workable coalition longer than 6 months. There are just too many differences between the players.
Oh, and here is one other thing. The Knesset Channel just did a poll (Reported in the Times of Israel) of the Israeli electorate. Apparently IF there were new elections (still an unlikely possibility). Yesh Atid would become the new leading party with 30 seats, Likud would drop to 22 Seats, HaBayit HaYehudi would go up to 15 seats, and Labor would drop to 13 seats. G-d only knows what would happen to HaTanuah... I would bet their people go to Yesh Atid along with Mofaz' two seats.
Of course there would still be a mess in this case as well but now it would be on Yair Lapid to try to form a coalition and not Benjamin Netanyahu. Given Lapid's ego (remember, he stated that HE would be Prime Minister within 18 months), and political ambitions the news of this poll has to make him and Naftali Bennett sit up and take notice.
Will there be new elections? No one knows, but, whatever happens we are going to see some defining moments for the Israeli polity in the next few months.