Netanyahu now has the same number of seats as his main coalition partner, Yair Lapid. This leaves him at the mercy of his arch-rival, President Reuven Rivlin, if the coalition would need to be reshuffled without new elections being called.
Up until mid last month, Netanyahu’s coalition enjoyed a reasonably obvious hierarchy. The Likud-Beitenu list led with 31 seats; Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid followed with 19; Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home barely caught up with 12; and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua closed the list with 6.
This classical enough arrangement suffered its first blow in mid- July, when Avigdor Liberman unilaterally broke off the Likud-Beitenu alliance, taking his party’s 11 seats and leaving Netanyahu with 20. But since last Wednesday even this flimsy pyramid unraveled, sliding instead into a gridlock alliance between several identically sized parties: Likud now has 19 seats, as does Yesh Atid; and Yisrael Beitenu has 12 seats, just like Jewish Home. Tzipi Livni still has 6.
The following is a timeline of how this came about:
December 2013: Carmel Shama-Hacohen, a junior ex-MK who narrowly lost his seat in the last elections (and thus would be next in line if someone in the Likud-Beitenu was to give up their seat), is offered the position of Israel’s ambassador to the Paris headquarters of the OECD. The offer is made by Avigdor Liberman, then-chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
28 May 2014: After several increasingly divisive attempts to undermine the presidential candidacy of former Knesset chair, Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu is forced to admit defeat and offer Rivlin his support.
29 May 2014: Liberman (now reinstated as foreign minister) declares his party still won’t support Rivlin, while publicly accusing Netanyahu of going behind his back. The rift is now official.
10 June 2014: Rivlin is elected President, and automatically resigns his Knesset seat, which is passed on to Carmel Shama-Hacohen.
7 July 2014: Liberman splits up the Likud-Beitenu alliance, leaving Netanyahu at the head of a 20-seat faction instead of 31, and taking 11 seats for himself.
6 August 2014 Carmel Shama-Hacohen takes up the OECD ambassador post and resigns his seat in the Knesset.
6 August 2014: Owing to a clause of the electoral agreement between Yisrael Beitenu and Likud, Shama-Hacohen’s place is taken by Yisrael Beitenu MK Alex Miller.
Likud 19, Yesh Atid 19, Habayit Hayehudi 12, Yisrael Beitenu 12, Hatnua 6.
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