Moving forward, with or without Kadima

Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Israel Beiteinu party, has announced that he’s ready to join a coalition government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. This means that Netanyahu should be able to form such a government, consisting of his Likud party, Lieberman’s party and the religious parties.

This government would not be very stable. For example, the mentor to one of the major religious parties has referred to Lieberman as the devil. Moreover, a “right-wing” coaltion government would be easy for Israel’s enemies to demonize and might well have strained relations with the Obama administration.

For these reasons, Netanyahu reportedly would like to bring Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party into his government. Lieberman too expressed a preference for such a coalition even as he threw his support to Netanyahu.

Livni, though, appears to be having none of it. Instead, she is holding out for a “rotating” prime minister arrangement and insisting that she will not compromise her principles, which center around the fool’s errand of negotiating “peace” with the Palestinians.

But I wonder whether the less leftist, more hawkish elements of Kadima might be willing to join a Netanyahu government. After all, Kadima was founded (only a few years ago) not as a party committed to making concessions to the Palestinians in the hope of obtaining promises of peace. To the contrary, Kadima was founded by the hawkish Ariel Sharon on a platform of disengagement from the Palestinians. To be sure, this meant giving up land, but the territory was abandoned unilaterally, not pursuant to a peace process but in order to make Israel easier (with the help of a massive fence) to defend.

Those who joined Kadima did so in part, I suspect out of opportunism/loyalty to Sharon and in part because they agreed with Sharon at that moment about withdrawing from certain territory. Today, the opportunistic move might well be to abandon this borderline ersatz party. And Sharon’s program, which he carried out in part, no longer defines the debates.

The defining issues now are whether to revisit the “land for peace” dead end and what to do about Iran. It’s not hard to imagine that there are elements in Kadima with views on these matters that are closer to Netanyahu’s than to Livni’s.

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