The Grand Coalition Now Looks Like It Was a Charade

The Grand Coalition Now Looks Like It Was a Charade

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


It seems that the decision by Shaul Mofaz and the leaders of the Kadima to leave the Netanyahu led coalition is beginning to look like it was a planned merger that was never thought through and was doomed from the start.  The four issues which brought the two rivals together immediately following the conclusion of Netanyahu’s shiva for his father—the new Tal bill, the emergency budget, political-institutional reform, and renewal of the peace process—have not budged in the 70 days that this “eam was together. It appears that neither side worked though its desired goals before joining forces and stopping the pending call for elections.

It seems at this point that the results are mixed except for the charedim. Bibi and Likud put off the elections now probably until the winter, presumably to try to repair any damage they may have caused themselves over the past few weeks. Bibi still needs a new universal draft law to be in place as per the Court’s ruling and he will get some type of budget passed. While he gave Secretary Clinton some lipservice about the peace process, political institutional reform is clearly not even on the stove let along on the back burner.

Politically, Mofaz stirred the pot up and maybe picked up some potential voters at the next election. He did not win, on the one hand, any political victories for Kadima, but he gained visibility for the post-Livni Kadima. On the other hand, his failure to produce anything from the alliance with Bibi may have destroyed any of the good will he had been developing for his personal leadership of Kadima. This might open up a return for Livni or, what may be more likely now, the demise of Kadima as it splinters into small factions which will ally with other parties or form another new party; just what Israeli politics does not need!

For Bibi he toyed with his right-wing Likud friends and then returned to the fold by not moving on the peace process or settlements which Mofaz wanted the Government to advance. He also kept his right wing coalition partners in line. Bibi probably received assurances from Lieberman that his Party will not bolt the coalition over the national service issue, despite the rhetoric.

The winners in this entire brief, historical episode at the moment appear to be the charedim. There will be no major confrontation over military/national service at this time, although certainly there will be a new law with some very tentative and gradual accommodating language to try to increase ultra Orthodox participation in national service. Their political support for Bibi thus will remain intact.

Underlying all of the clear national public issues between Mofaz and Netanyahu was also the question of dealing with Iran, where Mofaz’s input and participation was seen to be a constructive and creative force vis-à-vis both Bibi and Ehud Barak. Given their long personal history, however, unless there was a major unknown blow-up this was not the issue underlying the dissolution. What it could become, however, is the fact that Mofaz’s departure will eliminate a moderating influence on the Government which some believe—given the failure of the P5 + 1 talks with Iran– is moving once again towards a pre-November Israeli strike.


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