Two officers in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance
Unit) engaged in secret negotiations for a week and shocked their friends when
they emerged with an agreement.
The victor in the deal was their former
commander, Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Neither Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu nor Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz belong on the list of winners and losers
in the surprise coalition deal they signed in the wee hours of Monday
Netanyahu does not belong on the list because he was a strong
prime minister before the deal, he is a strong prime minister after the deal and
he would have remained a strong prime minister had there been an early election
– which polls say he would have won by a landslide.
Mofaz does not belong
there either – he would have been trounced in the election had it taken place.
The credibility he lost in zigzagging from Netanyahu critic to partner will be
hard to restore before the next election, no matter when it takes
The winners list must start with Barak, who was walking, talking
political carrion with an election on the horizon that would have left him out
of the Knesset. Now he is set to remain defense minister until after an election
scheduled for October 22, 2013.
That means that despite his lack of
public support, Barak will be there when the biggest possible decisions are made
on war and peace.
The second big winner is Natan Eshel, Netanyahu’s
disgraced former bureau chief, who was forced out amid harassment allegations,
yet came out of the woodwork to broker his former boss a sweetheart
Kadima MKs who had no chance of getting reelected are also big
winners. The polls predicted that 28 MKs plus former IDF chief of staff Lt.-
Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz would have to run for just 10 seats.
Kadima MKs have been given new life.
The two other winners are less
known, but they all have been given more of a chance of being in the next
MK Haim Amsalem broke off from Shas and formed a party called Am
Shalem that now has time to build itself up.
MK Yuval Zellner (Kadima)
was sworn into the Knesset Monday for what appeared to be only one full day of
Now he will have the opportunity to be an MK for a year-and-
Ironically, the losers are also Kadima MKs, specifically the ones
who detest Netanyahu and will now have to defend him from inside his
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich can also be considered a loser
in the deal. She gained the plum title of opposition leader, but with polls
predicting that Labor would become the second-largest party, she could have been
a senior minister had the election taken place now.
Yacimovich could lose
her luster over the next year-and-a-half, but probably not as much as new Yesh
Atid Party leader Yair Lapid. Just as he was seen as entering politics
prematurely, he was forced into forming the party and revealing its name
While Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was declared
a loser by television commentators for losing his role as a kingmaker for the
current coalition, he could emerge the ultimate winner if Attorney- General
Yehuda Weinstein clears him on corruption charges ahead of the next
So who is the ultimate loser in the deal whose winner was
Barak? The answer is Barack.
Six months ago, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy complained about having to deal with Netanyahu. Now Sarkozy is free of
that burden, following an election that left him unemployed. US President Barack Obama replied in that conversation overheard via an
inadvertently open microphone: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with
him even more often than you.”
If Obama had any hope that he would be
emancipated from Netanyahu due to an Israeli election surprise, that hope is now
gone. There is only one way for him to avoid dealing with Netanyahu beyond the
next several months: Losing in November.
There is no loophole in American
politics that could prevent that race from taking place.