Analysis: Wanted, a grain of salt

Politicians will say things they don’t mean and mean things they don’t say; it's all part of political horse-trading in coalition talks.

The Shas triumvirate with the Likud Beytenu team 370 (photo credit: Ya'acov Cohen)
The Shas triumvirate with the Likud Beytenu team 370
(photo credit: Ya'acov Cohen)
No self-respecting reporter would urge readers not to read their own newspaper’s articles, but perhaps for just the next four to six weeks, that might not be such a bad idea.
That’s because during the coalition talks, a lot of politicians are going to say things they don’t mean and mean things they don’t say. It’s all part of the political horse-trading that is part and parcel of building a stable coalition.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will leak that he intends to leave Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid out of his coalition, and Lapid will respond with empty threats to serve as opposition leader for a short period of time and then replace Netanyahu.
Shas will say they won’t sit with Lapid. Yesh Atid will say they won’t sit with Shas. And right-wing and left-wing MKs will bash each other from opposite sides.
But by the time the March 16 deadline for forming a coalition rolls around, chances are they will find a way to sit together and settle their differences from the comfortable chairs around the cabinet table at the Prime Minister’s Office.
The ritual began Sunday at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel, a pleasant place to spend a few hours behind closed doors and then come out to reporters to mislead them. In front of the cameras, the negotiators talked tough.
Inside – who knows? In 2003, reporters spent many long days in Kfar Hamaccabiah blissfully unaware that the hotel was a decoy for the real negotiations that were taking place between Shinui and the National Religious Party at the Jerusalem residence of future prime minister Ehud Olmert.
When they speak to the cameras, the politicians will say that they do not care about portfolios and that they really spend all their time in the negotiating room discussing their principles. Whether the truth is otherwise does not really matter.
The coalition agreements the parties sign rarely end up being honored on any subject other than the ministries each party receives. The ideological parts of the document tend to be quickly forgotten.
For instance, in the last coalition agreement signed in March 2009, the six parties that entered the government vowed to bring about the end of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip and pass a bill that would enable Israelis abroad to vote. The coalition agreement with Shinui in 2003 said there would be civil marriage.
But the rabbinate still controls marriage, Hamas is still inpower in Gaza, and there was no progress in passing the so-called Omri Casspi bill that would grant the right to vote to Israelis who temporarily reside abroad, like the Cleveland Cavaliers player.
So please continue reading The Jerusalem Post, and buy the print edition if you can. But until Netanyahu’s new government is signed, sealed and delivered, just read the statements by the politicians and the other coalition negotiators with a grain of salt.