Benjamin Netanyahu and the coalition he has

The shape of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government has become clear; it will be “right wing.” Netanyahu originally hoped to bring in Tzipi Livni and the supposedly centrist Kadima party. But Livni refused to join, citing her commitment to negotiating a “two-state solution” with Palestinians.

Livni may have been acting on principle. Or she may have been hoping to force her arch-rival to form a government that both she and anti-Israelis throughout the world can demonize.

Netanyahu next approached the left-wing Labor party. He was hamstrung, however, by the demands of his largest coalition, Israel Beiteinu, which outpolled Labor in February’s election. Israel Beitneinu insisted on the Foreign Ministry (for its leader Avigdor Lieberman) and the Justice Ministry (for Daniel Friedmann who currently holds the post).

The selection of Friedmann apparently meant that Labor would not join the government. But Netanyahu still hoped to bring Labor’s leader, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, into his government as a “professional appointment” without his party. Barak seemed interested, but the members of his party were adamantly opposed, and Netanyahu has reporedly given up on this prospect.

Thus, Israel will not have a “national unity” government. In the case of Kadima, the party leader stood in the way. In the case of Labor, the party leader seemed willing, but not the party.

Israel, then, looks to be returning to something like its traditional model, in which the two main factions are a leftist party and a party of the right. The Kadima ploy, a party that attempted to occupy a middle ground, may have run its course. The party itself remains, but its leader has lost any claim to being in “the middle.”

This is a victory for clarity. How Netanyahu’s coalition will fare is another question.

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