The center shifts, but will it hold?

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is making a bold bid to broaden his coalition and/or destroy his rival party, Kadima. The Jerusalem Post is reporting that at least six Kadima members of the Knesset intend to join Netanyahu’s coalition. Reportedly, they requested that Netanyahu ask Kadima’s leader, Tzipi Livni, to join the government. Their expectation was that she will decline, thus providing the basis for the defecting Kadima MK’s to break off from Kadima.
Netanyahu apparently has, in fact, asked Livni to join his coalition. She would serve as a minister without portfolio, as would Kadima’s number 2, Shaul Mofaz.
This seems like a win-win for Netanyahu. If Livni declines to join the government, as I think most people expect she will, then Kadima is split. If she joins, Netanyahu has, at least for the time being, an incredibly broad coalition — one that encompasses the right-wing and religious parties, Kadima, and even the leftist Labor party, whose leader, Ehud Barak, is serving as Defense Minister.
In ordinary circumstances, a coalition that broad might be a mixed blessing at best. But with Israeli facing a growing threat from Iran, and with its relations with the Obama administration none too solid, the broader the coalition the better.
Kadima was formed as a centrist party. Last winter, as the increasingly left-leaning Livni resisted the entreaties of some in her party to join Netanyahu’s coalition, I wrote: “This may be a case in which the center cannot hold; or, perhaps more to the point, a case in which there is no real center.”
The first part of this statement is looking prophetic. As to the second part, it seems to me that Netanyahu, having won such broad support since becoming Prime Minister, now occupies the real center. That center won’t hold for very long, but for Israel’s sake I hope it lasts long enough for Netanyahu to guide his country through the tough times immediately ahead.


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