Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing difficulty in forming the large coalition which includes as broad a span of political views as possible such that the result will not be dependent on any single party other than Likud-Beytenu. The problem he has struck is the contest between Shas, the Hasidic Party and Yesh Atid headed by Yair Lapid who refuses to compromise on any of the party platform issues he and his list had campaigned upon. One issue which has become a hot button issue finds the religious parties including Shas in direct conflict with Lapid’s Yesh Atid stand that only the top four-hundred Torah students be allowed a deferment from IDF or National Service a part of the share the burden solution. Shas, needless to point out, wishes for an equal or at least very similar style deferment law as the Tal Law which was ruled to be against the constitution by the Supreme Court in a decision made in the final days under Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, a strange concept as Israel has no constitution. Neither side wishes to budge on this issue and Lapid, who is entering the Knesset for the first time as are all the people on his list, will likely be introduced to the concept that if you demand everything you will often end up not in the coalition and you get nothing, such is the way of parliamentary governance. My feelings are that Yair Lapid knows full well that at some point he will need to give in order to get but is going to play hard and stiff for as long as it serves to further his ideals and ideas and bend only at the last moment. Shas will not bend and will need to be bludgeoned into accepting any form of compromise but that is their way and is expected.
Yair Lapid might be playing a dangerous game believing that Netanyahu cannot permit him and his nineteen Knesset seats to join Shelly Yachimovich and the Labor Party in the opposition. He had best do the math and realize that Netanyahu can form a sixty-one seat coalition simply by including the two purely religious parties, Shas and Yahadut HaTorah with eleven and seven seats respectively along with HaBayit HaYehudi which has twelve seats. Add in the thirty-one seats of Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu Party reaches the sixty-one seats out of the Knesset’s one-hundred-twenty total seats, the minimum necessary for a majority to form a coalition. Netanyahu has even spoken with Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich and even the leader of Meretz, Zahava Gal-On, even though the likelihood of their parties joining the coalition are minimal, as the Prime Minister had stated he wishes to form as broad a governing coalition as possible, even a unity government, though that is next to impossible. All told, the forming of the coming coalition very well may prove to be more interesting than the usual cut and dry same old expected coalition of traditional allies. With some of the difficulties which may come to a head and have to be faced by the coming government, a large and stable coalition that is not dependent on any one party is something that is definitely desirable. I do not envy the members of this Knesset, especially having a fairly good idea of what challenges are coming down the rails like an out of control train.
Back to the tug-of-war between the Hasidic Parties and Lapid’s fairly secular party over exemptions may be the most evident battle ongoing but is not the only and may prove not to even be the most critical or vitally important debate that forming the coalition will need to address. Another of Lapid Party’s concerns that I feel is likely even more important concerns the economy and the price of living. One of the major segments of the economy which needs the magic touch of Netanyahu’s economic miracle workers is housing prices and rents. During the last Knesset Netanyahu took aim at the cell phone monopolies and he opened up that market to greater competition and the prices dropped like an anchor. Hopefully Netanyahu will be able to work similar miracles with housing and rental prices, then taking aim at food prices, especially dairy and the other areas where the number of vendors is quite limited. What makes this area even more important is that much could be gained in relieving some of the upward pressures on food prices that could be attained through annexing at a minimum Area C of Judea and Samaria, the area already under total Israeli rule and control. The additional farm lands and expanded area would serve as a stimulus to the Israeli economy, an economy that is already one of the most robust of the Industrialized West. Another possible benefit from such a move would be to place some pressure on the Palestinian leadership which might be sufficient a shock to bring Abbas to the negotiation table and remove from United States President Obama’s list of misconceptions about Israel, namely that it is Netanyahu who refuses to negotiate and Abbas the willing partner. In the meantime, let’s just relax and watch the barter and other fun that goes with making a coalition. I wonder if there were a way of making coalition forming the national sport of Israel after all, they do it far, far too often.
Beyond the Cusp