A phenomenon almost as rare as the fifty year jubilee has seemingly been set in motion in Israel. The first rumors came from the religious Zionist camps where both the Ichud Leumi (National Union) Party and the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) Party have been testing the idea of merging their tickets seeking added seats in the upcoming Knesset elections. This was soon followed with the revelation that the current front running party, Likud, announced their intent to run a combined right wing parties combined ticket with Yisrael Beitenu which will offer up the combination of Benyamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister and Avigdor Lieberman claiming one of the major Ministries with rumor suggesting he will seek to be Defense Minister. After these announcements there has been rumors and hints of rumors of a merger of all the “center left parties” offering Ehud Olmert or Tzipi Livni or even one where it was rumored that Tzipi Livni offered to be the number two on a ticket if current Israeli President Peres would step down and agree to head such a combined ticket. President Peres laid this rumor to bed very quickly. Some of the wisps of rumors around this seemingly desperate search for an answer to the Likud- Yisrael Beitenu ticket have mentioned Yair Lapid as a possible head and his Yesh Atid (Future) Party leading such a ticket. Then there have been the truly desperate pleadings from Shaul Mofaz hoping to get Kadima included in the list of parties joining this everyone against Netanyahu and Lieberman ticket as otherwise he and Kadima may very well not even attain sufficient support to be included in the next Knesset. This same predicament also haunts Ehud Barak and his Atzmaut (Independence) Party which he formed when he split off from the Labor Party. What are most interesting are the reasons behind these political maneuverings and the very emotional outbursts that have exploded from some of those seeking one of the merged tickets in particular.
The merger of the tickets by the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu had a straight forward and simple reasoning, they announced that they seek to offer a united right of center, pro-Zionist ticket which could, if the elections produce their expected results, offer the Israeli public a stable coalition which could take definitive actions which the current coalition has found to be problematic at best. They hoped to be able to join with a few other parties and because of the strength resultant from their combined list for the Knesset have sufficient strength to offer stability in the government that presents a straight forward set of objectives that would take advantage of the power garnering the increased seats in the Knesset would offer.
The combining of their lists by Ichud Leumi and the Habayit Hayehudi Parties, the first to initiate the idea though the second to actually accomplish a merger, stated their reasoning plainly, they would garner anywhere from two to four or possibly more additional seats than if the two parties ran separate tickets. After the merger announced by Netanyahu and Lieberman, these two religious Zionist parties said that they saw advantage for their representation from the merging of Likud with Yisrael Beitenu. They felt that with the inclusion of the mostly secularist Yisrael Beitenu Party joining with Likud which contains a faction which is religious and that this merger could be used to persuade some of these Likud members to vote for the religious Zionist ticket rather than vote for the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu ticket. This will remain to be seen and there is a good likelihood that they would possibly see an extra two, maybe three, seats in the Knesset. The difference if the extra seats did come from the more religious faction of Likud would not make such a great difference as these two tickets are very likely to be joined in the ruling coalition in the Knesset. There are many who would very much like to see a coalition consisting of these two combined tickets and not needing any other parties to clear the sixty-one seat requirement for a ruling coalition, though sixty-five or greater would be preferable.
The center left coalition is completely imaginary at this time. Despite all the noise and predictions of great victories that such a combined ticket would produce, no concrete plans or even cotton-candy offers have yet surfaced. There have been several names offered up as being the savior who simply by heading the ticket would produce a lock on controlling the next Knesset and preventing Prime Minister Netanyahu from retaining his position. Logic would predict that Shelly Yacimovich as the leader of the Labor Party, the strongest of the center left parties, would be the choice to head this coalition yet she has been most remarkable by the absence of her mention. Instead we have heard such things as Tzipi Livni returning to lead or be the number two on the ticket behind Ehud Olmert or Shimon Peres at the top of the ticket. The actual and very real problem in forming such a coalition is that the parties which would have to make a combined stand have almost nothing in common beyond their visceral hatred of Netanyahu and Lieberman.
Much of the talk around the forming of a center left ticket has been all about preventing the fanatical right-wing, Zionist, pro-settlement, war-mongering, lunatics who simply want to bomb Iran, start a war with the entire Middle East, refuse to even negotiate with the Palestinians, and pick fights with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. In the few days since the reelection of President Obama by the voters in the United States, there has been almost fanatical screaming about how a Biberman Coalition, the name given to the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu combined ticket with an intent to make it sound all the more menacing though I find it almost too cute to do so, would destroy any semblance of normalcy in Israeli-American relations. There have been numerous claims made by Ehud Olmert and many liberal media sources such as Haaretz that Benyamin Netanyahu campaigned and endorsed Mitt Romney to such an extent as to very likely destroy any possibility of the Prime Minister even being able to hold a civil conversation with President Obama. This problem in and of itself is supposed to make the reelection of any coalition that would place Benyamin Netanyahu back as Prime Minister to be suicidal and therefore unthinkable for the Israeli public. These hyperventilated protestations of imminent doom are completely unfounded as Prime Minister Netanyahu did nothing of the sort and even when pushed to state a preference refused to entangle himself in the internal political issues of the United States. If the Prime Minister is guilty of anything, it was of receiving Mitt Romney with the respect one would show a candidate for the Presidency of the United States when Mitt Romney campaigned in Israel. He treated him exactly as he had done for Barack Obama when he visited Israel when he was the candidate in 2008. I am hoping that the center left parties do manage to knit together their dreamed joint ticket for the coming elections in Israel as I really want there to be no exclamations of if only we could have had our coalition the vote would have been different after the results are in. I want all the political views to have their best possible presentation to the people of Israel so that whichever group forms the next ruling coalition has the obvious strong majority support of the electorate. That is going to be necessary as decisions with tsunami-like repercussions and ramifications are going to need to be addressed by the next Israeli government. This is not just true of Israel, but is going to be true for many of the countries in the world as critical times and crucial choices are going to be made in the near future. Israel is one of the countries where their choices going forward are going to have a much larger potential impact than has been the case in the past.
Beyond the Cusp