Getting to 61, Part Two

It takes the support of 61 Knesset members to form an Israeli government. Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud are marching towards that number while Tzipi Livni and Kadima are stalled so far.

Netanyahu reportedly is closing in on a deal with the United Torah Judaism party (UTJ). Its five seats would bring Likud’s total to 50, representing all parties in the “right-wing” coalition except for the largest, Yisrael Beitenu (15 seats).

Meanwhile Livni is stuck at 28, the number of seats Kadima captured. Her attempts to make a deal with Yisrael Beitenu have prevented her from gaining the support of the left-wing parties, Labor and Meretz (16 combined seats).

Netanyahu could form a government by gaining the support of either Kadima or Yisrael Beitenu. Reportedly, he would prefer Kadima, but Livni has driven too hard a bargain so far. Perhaps she will relent as Netanyahu closes in on 61 without her.

But Israeli politics always has an extra wrinkle or two, and in this case there is talk that Netanyahu may have trouble bringing in Yisrael Beitenu wihout losing UTJ. That’s because, of all things, right-wing Yisrael Beitenu strongly favors the right to civil unions for homosexual couples. UTJ has indicated that its rabbis would direct the party to walk away from a coaliltion government that supported civil unions. A coalition that included Yisrael Beitenu but not UTJ would have the support of only 60 Knesset members.

I guess it’s possible to conceive of a democratic form of government more flawed than Israel’s, but I don’t seem able to do so.

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