Coalition politics is like playing a Byzantine or medieval court game where you tried to guess which dukes or barons were held in favor by the lord and who were not. Watching who was absent and where they stood was critical like watching a May Day parade in Moscow’s Kremlin during the Cold War and seeing who stood where in the lineup. That is essentially what is going on in earnest in Israel now that the country returns to normal after the Passover holiday.
Announcements are being made by various non-Likud members as the potential coalition Government members emerge after meeting with Netanyahu. No one knows for sure what is being offered to which party and what cabinet positions are being dangled in front of whom. Until the coalition agreements are signed it is all speculation and posturing as to who is telling the truth and who is bluffing; who is jockeying for a position versus who has actually been offered a place at the Cabinet table.
All of this sets the stage for the most curious political question being discussed in Jerusalem at the moment: whether Bibi will invite the Labor Party to join a national unity Government or not. It appears that Bibi and Isaac Herzog have indeed met to discuss the prospects of what it would take for Herzog to join Netanyahu and not lead the opposition forces in the Knesset. Will Herzog be offered enough to move into the Cabinet with a major Ministry?
All of the political maneuvering is based almost exclusively on the question of whether Bibi’s loyal followers in Likud and the other right-wing parties–which are expected to join the Government–can tolerate conceding power and positions to Labor which they have coveted, in the name of a national unity Government?
It is also not at all clear if Bibi is bluffing with Boogie and has no genuine intention of making him an offer? To what extent is this part of Bibi’s effort to reconcile with Obama by demonstrating that he is looking for a partner in his coalition whom the White House perceives as being more conciliatory and engaging in a peace process with the Palestinians as well as more forthcoming in freezing settlement activity?