As expected Bibi did not get it done in time, so President Peres has extended to Netanyahu the expected two additional weeks to cobble together a Government. This scenario follows the strange Israeli tradition of only forming a Government when the potential Prime Minister has his back against the wall; but the shape of this new Government is becoming more and more elusive and suspicious. Consider the following issues:
1. Likud- Yisrael Beitanu say they are willing to compromise and even freeze settlements, which Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Livni and Kadima also want; but the Likud-Yisrael Beitanu internal alliance is more committed than the previous Government not to consider this option.
2. HaBayit HaYehudi led by Naphtali Bennet is a right wing settler based-religious Zionist Party which has joined with Lapid to oppose any Government which includes the haredim (including and especially Shas-the Sephardic group) insisting that the new Government compel all religious citizens to accept military—or national service. Is Bennett truly ready to join with Lapid given how far apart they appeared to be on negotiations with the Palestinians, settlement policy, and the peace process? Who is bluffing whom?
3. Is Shas really telling Netanyahu they will acquiesce to a freeze and even dismantling of settlements if, presumably, his new Government softens its position on haredi conscription?
It seems to come down once more to a test of wills between principle and power. Netanyahu knows that if he fails, Lapid will try to form a Government around him with Labor and minor parties. Failing that Lapid probably believes that he now will have enough momentum to gain appreciably in a new election and not even need to wait the 18 months he predicted Bibi would be able to stay in power. So while we in the U.S. have a pathetic situation of a dysfunctional Government, Israel is operating with no Government in sight; the President’s Israel visit likely will be postponed if there is no Government in place; Iran talks are clearly going nowhere; and 13,000 AIPAC lobbyists in Washington are clamoring?