Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Coalition Building - Bibi's Nonsense

It's a travesty that the press is uncritically regurgitating the notion that Bibi has a higher chance of forming a government than Livni. This is not at all true when one looks at the numbers, even if they change by one or two seats in favor of the right-wing after the soldiers' and absentee voters' ballots are counted.

Although Netanyahu has been arguing that he won a decisive victory, I don't think he is thrilled about forming a far-right government. He knows that this will cause him a lot of problems on the international stage, which will in turn impede his ability to advance his policy aims. Furthermore, he would need both ultra-Orthodox parties to form the "nationalist" government that so many people are dreaming about.

Here is what such a coalition would look like:

Likud + Yisrael Beitenu + Shas + Jewish Home + National Union + Torah Judaism 
= (27 + 15 + 11 + 3 + 4 + 5) seats
= 65 seats  [out of a total of 120]

That's a very weak government, considering that it commands just 4 seats more than the minimum. Plus, can you imagine the headaches with Shas, the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox, and Lieberman all in one coalition?

Both Shas and Yisrael Beitenu have been posturing that they would prefer a Netanyahu government. There is bad blood between Shas and Livni, so perhaps Shas will under no circumstances sit in her government. But Lieberman's public expressions of support for a Netanyahu government should be read as attempts to strengthen his bargaining position vis-a-vis Livni. The same of course goes for Barak's remarks about Labor returning to the opposition. Nothing is a given. Neither Kadima nor Labor have any compunctions about sitting in a government with Lieberman. Moreover, Shas and Yisrael Beitenu would probably be willing to bury the hatchet, at least temporarily, if the right conditions are met.

There is thus a distinct possibility of a Kadima + Labor + Yisrael Beitenu + Shas coalition
 = (28 + 13 + 15 + 11) seats
= 67 seats. 

As always, the remarks to the press and leaks by the various candidates and their parties should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism. As much as certain candidates may insist that they will never sit in a government with X or Y, or that they would never consider conceding on issue Z, everything is up for grabs. 


Anonymous said...

I think you're right that it could go either way here. The only thing is - Livni chose to go to elections before rather than submit to Shas' conditions, so do you think Shas will back down from its demands about negotiations with the Palestinians because I don't see Livni giving in on that?

Amos said...

I think this is why Shas has embraced Netanyahu - to make Livni pay a high price for the party to come over to her side. You are right that it is a significant obstacle to overcome. But I think Livni might give in if it is her only way of forming a government.

Critiker said...

Hello, this is Criticker speaking:
The price that Liberman will ask of Livni for his inclusion will be so high as to displace her whole agenda. Even though the formula you proposed for a Kadima coalition government has less members and is therefore more pure than for Bibi's, its participating members are more contrary. Liberman is the antithesis of Livni, and Shas is the foil of Lieberman. Hence will all the concessions that will have to me made, Livni+ Shas + Liberman means no Livni at all.