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by Rhonda Spivak, May 8, 2012

 Benjamin Netanyahu made history today announcing that he and Shaul Mofaz of Kadima have formed an agreement bringing the Kadima faction into Netanyahu's ruling coalition. The result is that  Netanyahu now has a 94-seat coalition, the largest coalition in Israel's history.

 Only hours earlier  before the stunning announcement of this agreement, Netanyahu had announced he was callling early elections for September 4. This looming election announcement was a move that likely threatened Mofaz as he was no doubt worried that in a quick election, his Kadima party would lose a substantial amount of seats, according to recent polls. Mofaz , who realized he was in no shape to fight early elections, read the writing on the wall and entered Netanyahu's coalition.

Veteran Israeli correspondent David Bedein reporting form Jerusalem tells the Winnipeg Jewish Review that on the whole this 94 seat coalition in Israel is  being viewed positively "as it will strengthen the country"  vis a vis its foreign policy on the world stage, "bringing increased stability to Netanyahu's government." Now, if any of the right wing parties threaten to leave the coalition government, their threats will be empty, as Netanyahu will have the backing of Kadima to stay in power.

In addition as the threat of Iran looms, the appearance of a united Israel may give Netanyahu increased confidence in arriving at decisions vis-a vis the Iranian threat, and keeping up pressure on the world to increase sanctions and to take needed action to prevent Iran from going nuclear.  Mofaz, who has up to now said that Israel does not need to strike Iran militarily as of yet, will presumably not be too quick to support Netanyahu and Barak in any military attack. At the same time,being flanked by both security chief's Barak and Mofaz on his sides, Netanyahu will be able to claim that any decision regarding Iran has been made with the broadest national consensus possible.

Mofaz enters the coalition as the new Deputy Prime Minister, showing that he knows how to look after his own personal interests. No other members of his party will recieve cabinet positions. Bedein joked as to Mofaz's 180 degree turn from criticizing the coalition to joining it. "It appears that Israel has just legalized prostitution," he said. As one Ha'aretz commentator has just written, in the space of a few hours, Mofaz lost the "o" and one "p" from "opposition," and has ended up with "position."   

Last time when he was Prime Minister, Netanyahu lost his government when his narrow coalition fell. He has presumanbly learned much from his previous experience. He  now holds the record of having acheived the largest coalition in Israel's history--no small acheivement by any stretch of the imagination.

The political loser as a result of  this latest stunning turn of affairs is television journalist Yair Lapid, whose new party  according to polls was likely to win a substantial number of seats at Kadima's expense had the promised September 2012 election taken place. Lapid, who was set to run for the Knesset for the first time will have to watch events unfold from the sidelines. By the time the next elections actually take place, who knows how many voters will remember Lapid.

And what will Obama make of this all? He's had a tough couple of days--Yesterday he he lost his friend Sarkozy in France (it was  Sarkozy who was overheard referring to Netanyahu as a liar not so long ago)-and today Obama will awake to learn that Netanyahu has essentially gotten himself re-elected without even having to campaign.

 * one other interesting note-Mofaz has a connection with Netanyahu's family, in particular with Netanyahu's deceased brother Yoni Netanyahu (the brother that Netanyahu's father,  Benzion Netanyahu said merited being Prime Minister (wheras Bibi ,he said, merited being Foreign Minister only). Mofaz was an IDF soldier who along with Yoni Netanyahu was a pilot in the raid on Enteppe to rescue the hijacked airline passengers. When Yoni Netanyahu died in the operation, Mofaz took over.


Gerald Steinberg in the Times of Israel on the new unity coalition re the Palestinian issue;

"On the complex issues of borders, settlements and negotiations with the Palestinians, the new government can belatedly confront the violent fringe that has sought to impose its views. The pragmatic consensus that supports a stable peace, if possible, and recognizes the costs to Israel of unending occupation and responsibility for millions of Palestinian Arabs, can reassert its voice.

"This does not mean a return to the vulnerability of the 1949 cease-fire lines, or destruction of communities built in good faith across that “green line.” But now, the government has the credibility to pursue negotiations for a two-state framework based on compromise. If Israelis see a basis for stable agreement, including an end to invented Palestinian histories and efforts to flood Israel with millions of third-generation “refugees,” the majority will accept the costs. And if such negotiations reach another dead end, a broad-based Israeli government can move toward implementing the consensus approach to borders and leave the Palestinians to decide how to govern themselves.

"A broad unity government anchored by Likud and Kadima — the two largest Israeli parties — will also have the legitimacy and stability to deal carefully and seriously with the wider regional challenges. If Iran continues to move toward nuclear weapons, all options are still on the table, and do not need to be spelled out again. The presence of three former IDF chiefs of Staff in this government is, in itself, a form of deterrence, (although on many issues, the narrow military backgrounds of party leaders are not always assets). In addition, given the unprecedented and unpredictable changes in Egypt and Syria, Israel presents an image of stability and democratic strength. New Egyptian leaders who might seek to divert public attention from economic and other issues by renouncing the peace treaty with Israel might now have second thoughts regarding the potential response."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.