Bibi’s Double Bargain

Netanyahu walks a frayed tightrope. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Netanyahu may find that the outcome of the bargaining process to determine the coalition for the 33rd government will have repercussions for his future political survival.

I try not to predict things very often, especially in Israeli politics, but the news coming out of the latest coalition talks between Netanyahu and Naftali Bennet make “predictioneering” very tempting.  So here we go: if Naftali Bennet takes Netanyahu up on his very specific offer to join the government—an offer that would only be on the table for 48 hours—the next Israeli government will lead a tumultuous life and is unlikely to survive until the next elections.

Most likely, Naftali Bennet will accept the offer. With its 12 Knesset seats, Bennet’s HaBayt haYehuda party is a contending force in Israeli politics, representing more hawkish views than the Likud party, and is a heavily favored political choice in the modern orthodox and national religious settler communities. However, it is not concern for the party’s relative numerical strength that will compel Bennet to join the coalition. Neither is it his own personal political ambitions (of which I am an unqualified judge). Rather, the nature of the party itself and the issues that it promotes makes a role in the opposition unthinkable and utterly meaningless.

This is because Bennet’s party is essentially a one-issue party; its only true concern being the prevention of any developments in the process to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace that could lead to the creation of a Palestinian state and the surrender of Israeli-held territory. Because of its singular focus, a seat around the coalition table is crucial, as it would only take one political “misstep” for the next Israeli administration to destroy the party’s raison d’etre

The lessons of the Olso Agreement and the Gaza evacuation taught the national religious that “peace” can “strike” at any moment and that even the most staunch settler allies (read Ariel Sharon) can have what seams like a sudden change of heart. This is sometimes referred to as the “peace disease” or “peace fever” and can be described as the realization by Israeli politicians—once they assume a leadership role—that territorial sacrifices are necessary in order to prevent further deterioration of Israeli democracy as a result of the impending Palestinian demographic “bomb.” In other words, they come to understand that it is imperative to separate Israel from territories that are heavily populated by Palestinian Arabs in order to retain a Jewish majority inside of Israel’s borders. How HaBayt haYehudi intends to deal with the impending demographic inevitability is the topic for another day (and one that resembles the debate between evolutionists and creationists). More important, however, is what awaits Israel and the world if Bennet accepts to be part of the coalition.

According to recent reports, the party was offered a number of important ministerial posts to sweeten the deal, including the education portfolio and a top-level economic portfolio. Apparently, the party would also get the portfolio of deputy of defense, which would mean that it would have broad authority over the expansion of settlements and construction in Judea and Samaria. If it’s true that Likud-Beytenu is also willing to grant Bennett’s party the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee their victory over those who promote a settlement freeze would be complete. In other words, should Yair Lapid also decide to join the coalition, he will be in for a battle.

For the rest of this article, please read my blog post in the Times of Israel.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Jewish Home (HaBayt HaYehudi) leader Naftali Bennet

One thought on “Bibi’s Double Bargain

  1. Pingback: Bennet defies prediction and allies himself with Lapid « The East•West•Middle

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