Navigate to News section

Israeli Coalition Jockeying Continues

With nine days to go, things are getting interesting

Adam Chandler
March 07, 2013
Yair Lapid.(AP)
Yair Lapid.(AP)

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared via satellite at the AIPAC policy conference, he had a series of jokes that conveyed one thing: he’s not having the best of times putting together a coalition.

“Don’t adopt Israel’s system of government,” he implored the laughing crowd.

With just over a week to go before the (already extended) deadline to form a government runs out, things are getting interesting. Today, there is news of an even newer bloc of three parties–Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Naftali Bennett’s The Jewish Home, and Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima–which together constitute 33 seats and are hoping to make Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu commit to certain policies and portfolio assignments…or else.

The three parties together have two more MKs than Likud Beytenu, and will not join the coalition if their demands are not met. However if they receive two of the three top-tier portfolios, they will support Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a full, four-year term, according to the source.

Yair Lapid seems to be denying that the portfolios are ultimatums, but if it’s in the Israeli media then it must be true.

Meanwhile, Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Likud have reportedly agreed that Israeli schools servicing ultra-Orthdox students must begin to teach English and math in their curricula. The aim here is to make sure that the Haredi population is able to join the workforce in the future, a huge part of Lapid’s campaign platform. This concession may come at the cost of the United Torah Judaism party (and its seven seats), which is not fond of the idea.

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party, which is fiercely opposed to the policies espoused by Lapid and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, on Thursday acknowledged the probability of assuming an opposition role.

“Until today we were in a coalition with the right, but that story is over, it’s about to change,” UTJ MK Moshe Gafni told Israel Hayom. “Now we’re with [Labor Party head] Shelly Yachimovich, and truth be told, we’re much closer to her than to Orit Struk of Jewish Home.”

In other news, while it seems as though Likud MK Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon will follow Ehud Barak as Israel’s Defense Minister (which isn’t a huge surprise), the fight over whether Lapid or Avigdor Lieberman will become Netanyahu’s foreign minister continues to be the source of high speculation. No matter who Bibi picks on this one, he will lose big time (at least politically).

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.