Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will arrive at President Shimon Peres’s
residence Saturday night after four weeks that he undoubtedly wishes he could
The coalition that could have been completed in the four weeks
Netanyahu was given to form a government did not bear fruit. The deal he reached
with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua Party only made it harder to craft agreements with
inevitable coalition partners Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi.
doubt blames his failure to form a government on Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett
– the two princes who dared to challenge the man Time Magazine called “King
Bibi.” They formed what – in his view – is an unholy alliance between parties
with opposing views on the Palestinian issue, and he fears that they will make
his term a headache by each twisting one of his arms.
Together, Yesh Atid
and Bayit Yehudi have 31 seats, the same number as Likud Beytenu, and their
legislators are much more cohesive and controllable than Netanyahu’s faction,
which is full of potential rebels.
But Netanyahu need not have looked at
either Lapid or Bennett as a threat. Had he invited them to serious, ideological
negotiations four weeks ago, not only would they not have needed to form their
bond, the two parties would not have hardened their stances and they would not
have been as difficult to deal with.
Political newbies Lapid and Bennett
both want to get ministerial experience in a four-year term that would enable
them to build a record of real results. They have their ambitions, but he need
not have assumed that they would be impatient to bring him down.
Yehudi officials felt that Netanyahu treated them like an unwanted nuisance
during the first three weeks of coalition talks.
Netanyahu could have
avoided pushing Bennett into the bond with Lapid.
Had their alliance not
been formed, it is possible Netanyahu could have succeeded in building a
coalition with both Shas and Yesh Atid, which would not have had the leverage to
insist on keeping out the haredi parties that the deal with Bennett gave
Bayit Yehudi, which in the past was eager to achieve compromises
between the secular and haredi sectors, sided with the secular against the
haredim due to the deal with Lapid and frustrations with years of haredi
discrimination against religious Zionists.
Now Netanyahu has no choice
but to form the government that Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi want, which will not
have haredi parties.
That coalition could be stable and could enable
important changes in Israeli society that will help Netanyahu in the long
There are few opportunities in Israeli politics for what is known in
local academic circles as a “mo’ed bet,” a do-over quiz. That is what these next
two weeks can be for Netanyahu.
He knows he needs to succeed in building
a strong, stable government, because US president Barack Obama is coming to
Israel just four days after the deadline for forming a coalition.
the arrival of Obama, who, unlike Netanyahu, was strengthened by his reelection,
the real tests will begin for the prime minister.