Israel elects: What the governing coalition may look like

What sort of coalition will a victorious Benjamin Netanyahu go for? Find out here...

by Nathalie Tamam on 22 January 2013 16:23

Polling day has finally arrived and Israelis are reportedly voting in large numbers. Offices are closed and people are enjoying the day out. Israel’s vibrant democracy is flourishing.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, the election results are expected to be fairly clear cut. Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu alliance will gain around 35 Knesset seats, it will be the largest party and it will lead the next coalition government.

The real question is what sort of coalition Netanyahu will form.

It would be easy enough for him to stick with his ‘natural partners’ on the Right. This would include Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party and the Sephardi-Charedi party Shas.

But Netanyahu already has to contend with a very Right-wing party slate and will be loath to create a coalition in which he is the most moderate member. 

Partnering exclusively with parties to his right will paralyse his next term, as a Right-wing coalition would certainly be more intransigent on international issues.

He will be unable to make progress on the peace process and this will put a strain on Israel’s relationship with international allies.

Alternatively, Netanyahu could create alliances with parties in the centre such a Yesh Atid, Hatnua or Labour.

Such a coalition would enable him to instigate new international diplomatic initiatives, progress on a range of societal issues including army service for the ultra-orthodox, and make waves on electoral reform.

Some parties on the left have indicated they would consider joining a Netanyahu government under the right circumstances.

Tzipi Livni has signalled that Hatnua is willing, but she has made an agreement on a strong and decisive peace plan the deciding factor. No doubt she will also have her eye on the position of Foreign Minister.

Lapid has also declared that while Yesh Atid will not be the ‘fifth wheel’ in an 'extreme' Right-wing coalition, he is open to joining a Netanyahu-led government.

Of all the centrist parties, Yesh Atid is certainly the best fit for Netanyahu. There is agreement between him and Lapid on a range of issues including electoral reform, and a pledge to ensure the ultra-orthodox become more integrated. Netanyahu may also perceive newcomer Lapid as easier to ‘handle’ than big beast Livni.

Netanyahu does not want to be a hostage of those further to the Right than he. His preferred option will certainly be to try and bring in a centrist party while maintaining his Right-wing alliances.

He is well aware that this will create no end of problems within his own ranks, not to mention the complications that will arise from the daily act of governing.

It will require all of Netanyahu’s skill as a political operator to negotiate and maintain this sort of broad coalition. But for Bibi, the next term is make or break.

Forming a government of ‘national unity’ may finally give him the domestic mandate and international leverage he needs to be a strong leader for Israel in what will certainly be very challenging times.


This article is the last in a series of blogs on the 2012 Israeli elections. You can find the rest by clicking here

This article is written in a personal capacity. The views expressed are those of the author's alone

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