Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who will form the Government?

I received an e-mail today expressing concern about the rumoured deal of Kadima agreeing to terms of Yisrael Betaynu on a possible coalition agreement. I had argued that Yisrael Betaynu would do a better job anchoring Netanyahu to the right then the right wing supporters in his party that he managed to bury far down on the list. Here is my response:

While I share your concerns, I do not read the situation the same way. Under our system, the government is going to be formed based on backroom bargaining. Not knowing exactly what you are voting for is one of the major flaws in the system. Clarifying what might happen after the elections, was one of the main inspirations of having the debate. Anything that may or may not happen before a government is formed is pure speculation.

I believe that Bibi is going to be Prime Minister. Even if Livni gets the tap on the shoulder from Peres she has simply burned down too many bridges during and after the election campaign. Bibi has two options for forming a government. He can build on his right wing block. He could stick to his election campaign and try to form a National Unity government. Yisrael Betaynu, Shas and Labour are the only parties big enough to hold up a Likud/Kadima coalition on their own. If Likud came in with 33-36 seats (which is around where they were polling at the beginning of the election) he could have easily walked away with the promised unity government without any outside help.

I am greatly concerned about the political influence of Gimmel and Shas. The Likud/Shas alliance was well publicized in the closing days of the election. These special interest Haredi parties have a greater level of influence on government policy than their supporters justify. We recently had a Haredi coup on our mikvahs. There is still confusion of the outcome. There have been reports that the Israel Beit Din is refusing to recognize conversions of the Toronto Beit Din. The Toronto Beit Din is known far and wide for their strictness. These are all results of political influence yielded by Shas. Yisrael Betaynu promised to uphold Daati Leumi, Zionist values. I think they have a chance at slowing down the hard right religious shift, that is causing so much controversy. For myself this was a very important but overlooked election issue.

Bibi was given ideal conditions for running away with this election. He now has a lot of unhappy people inside the party that he has to answer to. Hopefully he will use this as an opportunity to refocus on what is important to his party and to Israel. If he had taken 35-40 seats in this election he would not have taken the time to try to fix his broken right wing.

Electoral reform is badly needed. It is the only way to force parties to focus on Israel's greater needs and prevent messes like this form happening in the future. Hopefully this will be the message the new government will learn from this election.

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