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With Livni as his fig leaf, Bibi can now form an extremist government

After signing Tzipi Livni onto his coalition, Netanyahu doesn’t need Yair Lapid anymore – he can have the haredim and Naftali Bennett while pacifying Obama.   

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [file photo], Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO

Give the devil his due: Bibi pulled off a masterstroke yesterday by signing Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party to his coalition. Now he’s got clear sailing to his ideal government – one made up of the right wing and ultra-Orthodox, his base, but one that also keeps Obama and the Europeans off his back by giving the appearance – completely hollow – that he intends to try to move toward peace with the Palestinians. That’s Livni’s role, and she’ll be happy to play it; she’s been given the job of heading up negotiations with the Palestinians, which is what she always wanted, and it saves her from dying politically in the opposition with her six measly Knesset seats.

The important thing is that Netanyahu doesn’t need Yair Lapid anymore. Lapid was a problem – if Netanyahu gave in to his core demand to draft the haredim into military or civilian national service, he would have a haredi intifada on his hands and the haredim for enemies. But if on the other hand he rebuffed Lapid, whose Yesh Atid is the second largest party, he wouldn’t have enough support in hand to build a coalition, for which he needs a majority of the 120-member Knesset. But now he’s got Livni’s Hatnuah. Which means he can scoop up the haredim as well as Naftali Bennett’s far-right Jewish Home party, which, despite Bennett’s rhetoric, doesn’t want to draft the haredim because that would mean a schism with the settlers, and really only wants to expand settlements, strengthen Jewish nationalism and bash the Palestinians, which Likud-Beiteinu and the prospective haredi parties in the government want to do, too, and which Livni won’t have the power to stop.

Given the choice of making an enemy out of Lapid or out of the haredim, Netanyahu was always a thousand times more scared of alienating the haredim. After all, they will be around long after Lapid is gone, which may happen earlier than expected if and when he is consigned to the opposition, where neither he nor his middle-class constituency ever wanted to be.

So Bibi, after seemingly being stymied by the contradictory demands of Lapid and the haredim, has got the result he wanted. Between Likud-Beiteinu, Hatnuah, haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, Jewish Home and the anybody’s party Kadima, he can have a government of 69 MKs – eight more than he needs. And if that coalition doesn’t hold together, he can try to bring in Labor, or at least some of Labor’s more pliable Knesset members.

Anyway you slice it, by signing up Livni, Netanyahu is on track to form a sizable, coherent, secure government that satisfies his three crucial constituencies – the settlers, the haredim and Western leaders – without alienating anybody that can give him trouble. (The secular middle-class that voted for Lapid is basically apolitical, has a very short attention span, and will not hold a serious grudge against Netanyahu for caving into the haredim. After all, who hasn’t?)

Thus, Bibi ensures his political survival while crafting a government that will let him go on pursuing his dual ideology: nationalism and capitalism. Building military, economic and diplomatic power. Siding with the haves against the have-nots. Screwing the enemy.

The only ones who have both the ability and the interest to get in his way are the Palestinians, and I wish them all the luck.

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    1. XYZ

      Larry, I just want to remind everyone of your enthusiastic endorsement Livni before the election when you stated that you supported her because she was the nost against Bibi and most strongly for negotiations and concessions to the Palestinians. I specifically asked how you can support someone who was a serial liar, betrayer of supporters and destroyer of political parties. .You did not answer me.

      Add to this Amir Peretz’s antics where he leaves Shelli Yechimovich’s Labor Party because she wouldn’t rule out joinging a Likud coalition and joins Tzippi because she promises NOT to join a Likud coalition. Looks like he will be a cabinet minister too, and this as one of the founders of “Peace Now”. You Lefists/”progressives” deserve all these rotten politicians you have supported over the years. Serves you right!

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        @XYZ – for once, I fully agree with you. Livni is just another sh*tty politician to come out of the Likud-Kadima sewer. The only difference between her and the other Likud-Beiteinu-Kadima numbskulls is that she knows how to market and brand herself. She fits in with Bibi like two peas in a pod.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Piotr Berman

      I am not following Israeli politics daily, and as I started to check today, I am bewildered. Not sarcastically, just simply floored. I just checked ynetnews.com.

      So Bennett and Lapid announced alliance, and Netanyahu made a deal with Livni (pretty good for Livni, judging from the description), Shas is also in, and now they try to co-opt Yachimovich while keeping Bennett and Lapid out? Also sprach ynetnews.

      Good or bad, I have no idea. There is some elegance to having the opposition consisting of “Arabs+Meretz” (left), Lapid (center?) and Bennett (right) and the ruling coalition being almost as eclectic. The uniting principle is that “old parties” should crush the Visigoths at the gate, i.e. new parties by depriving the newbies of patronage while trying to please everyone after a fashion. Then the newbies will fade away in few years, as it happened with Shinui in the past.

      These are the important considerations, and the actual policies can be adapted to them.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Woody

      It’s time to restart the social justice movement, now with a big fat alienated middle class and the religious and settlers obviously running their country, we can hit it off. It would have been stall city if lapid was in the government-now back to the streets.

      Reply to Comment
    4. I explained all my reservations about Livni when I endorsed her, and afterward when I switched to Meretz. I didn’t support Hatnuah at first because of Livni, but rather despite her and because of Mitzna and Peretz.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Piotr Berman

      My above post is a sheer speculation based on the assumption that ynetnews reported correctly etc.

      What Lapid and Bennett wanted by making an alliance? Does it really seem that both will end outside the government?

      Reply to Comment
    6. meron

      The remark made by XYZ is accurate. Despite this, the article is brilliant.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Yaron

      I agree with the article, but should we really look at it so negative? Out of all the talking heads, Livni was the only one that actively talked about the peace process (besides the radical left), so shouldn’t we give her some benefit of the doubt? After all, the conservatives do have a majority, and when it is about a strict stance towards the Pals, a huge majority. So I guess, Livni is the best we can get and it is better than nothing. I would say: reason enough to support her, at least personally. Of course, Bibi can show Obama cs his good will and when talks fail, he can either chose to blame the Pals or Livni. We will see the proof of her goodwill soon. I figure that her first litmus test will be talking Bibi out of area E1.
      If she succeeds: Nobel Prize!!! Now who doesn’t want that?

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Livni’s idea of “peace negotiations” is bullying the Palestinians to renounce all their claims to territory. Do they give prizes for that now?

        Reply to Comment
        • Yaron

          You presume Livni of the past. But yes, if she is serious, she will have to go and shop for a new Livni, a new set of ideas and some power packs. She will have to team up with the cleverest of the cleverest and include opposition in her team. No, that is not an easy task, given the fact that she will have to negotiate on two sides: the Pals and the Bibis, both capable and willing to sabotage her.
          I just don’t buy the idea that ‘nothing has changed.’

          Reply to Comment
    8. LastFromRishon

      @XYZ You’re spot on. Sitting in the opposition Lapid and Bennett could join forces and rock the boat. In the closest years Israel is toast, economically. Soaring deficit and prices. In a year new elections.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Giora Me'ir

      Only take issue with your claim that YA will wither in opposition. To the contrary, they have a better chance of breaking up as a junior partner in a right-wing government.

      Reply to Comment
    10. “the haredim…will be around long after Lapid is gone” : The haredim are structual; the secular middle class is, in a sense, the absence of structure. Long ago I asked a then left Israeli (I suspect he no longer is such) why Rabin had popular support. He replied that parents were tired of sending their children soldiers to the camps and wanted it to end. Recognizing that the Rabin government actively shaped public response, even that desire was for a structural removal. The settlers are a structural advance which wants to expand, not a structural wound seeking removal; that is its power. “Peace” is the removal of the present, not building of a future; that is its weakness.

      As I said other post, I can only hope Livni advocates equal protection of the law within Israel as Justice Minister.

      Reply to Comment
    11. meron

      Yaron, the answer that you search is in this new article of haaretz:
      “Hatnuah later denied this accusation, saying in a statement that “Livni never conceded Ariel, and never discussed Jerusalem” during the negotiations she conducted as foreign minister in Ehud Olmert’s government. “She scrupulously protected Israel’s national interests. In politics, truth is also an option.”

      They accuse each other with things that for a normal person should be considered totally agreeable.
      Once again, Jerusalem, and more in general Palestine, has never been, in its entire history, in the hands of 1 single people. Why should be the case today?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Kibbutznik

      Yup , spot on Larry .
      What was it she said at Rabin Square ?
      ” He was my PM to ”
      Then she goes and joins Bibi !!!!
      Once a Likudnik always a Likudnik …and shame on Amir Peretz .
      You were right to vote Meretz and its right that we are in the opposition , nothing good will come from this coalition .

      Reply to Comment
    13. Richard Witty

      Its the society that elects extremists, and in the society where the political content must change.

      There is no other option, and the news is that its mostly NOT POLITICAL that makes the change, but human relations.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        How is she better? She is going to have a meaningless role in negotiations that are likely to go nowhere. To get into this role she sold out her voters by joining Bibi’s coalition.

        At least Lapid has yet to sell out his voters.

        Reply to Comment
    14. meron

      First time in my life that I agree with Kolumn9

      Haartez’s article of today:

      Livni took a deep breath. “I found an understanding that it is impossible to continue with the status quo,” she replied. “Even he [Netanyahu] sees that we have to launch a process. He understands that the situation has changed. Israel is in danger of becoming internationally isolated. [U.S. President] Obama is in his second term. I discovered that he has different insights about our situation in the international arena.”

      The question is how these may be translated into actions, and whether Livni heard what she found it convenient to hear, given her present position. Maybe she preferred not to ask all the questions that her colleague in the six-seat women’s club − MK Zahava Gal-On, leader of Meretz − asked Netanyahu in their meeting two weeks ago. “Effectively, he explained to me why it is impossible to make peace,” Gal-On told me this week. “I asked him, ‘What kind of political process will there be here?’ He asked me, ‘Do you really think it will be possible to evacuate settlements?’ I told him yes, certainly − the isolated settlements, those outside the blocs: in an orderly, considerate way, with plenty of money for those who depart, with empathy, not like [Ariel] Sharon did in Gaza. He said, ‘I see it as very problematic.’

      “I told him,” Gal-On added, “that we have to reach a solution over Jerusalem, because without that there will be no agreement. He asked whether I truly believed that he would agree to divided sovereignty in Jerusalem. I told him that the Clinton plan offers a reasonable solution to the problem. He didn’t seem to be anywhere near there. He also told me he is committed to his Bar-Ilan [two-states] speech. I told him to put that into the coalition agreements. It doesn’t appear in the agreement with Hatnuah.

      “I don’t understand what prompted Livni to sign,” Gal-On added. “What will the process she is purporting to lead come to, in view of the fact that this is the prime minister’s approach?”

      In fact, negotiations with the Palestinians will probably begin in the months ahead. The Americans and the Europeans are close to being at their wits’ end with Netanyahu. The alternative to negotiations is disastrous. But before we get to the final stages, a lot of water will flow in the choppy Jordan river, and in the meantime Justice Minister Livni will be busy as a beaver.

      “My modest contribution,” Livni said this week, “will be the ability to set new processes in motion. I have to do that for the country, but also for myself.” That’s a remark the old Livni would never have dared make. In the last incarnation she was completely for the country. Now, she is in fact admitting that the negotiating process is also a type of therapy for her.

      Reply to Comment
    15. XYZ

      The EU and Americans are “at their wits ends with Netanyahu”? In reality they are at their wits ends with the divided Palestinian leadership which is not prepared to make peace with Israel on any terms. Obama spent hours and hours pleading with Abbas to make some sort of minor gesture indicating he wants peace with Israel. He adamantly refused. Who cares what concessions Livni may want to make on Jerusalem? Olmert already offered it to them, including the Jewish holy sites like the Western Wall which Olmert was willing to give upt. No dice…the Palestinians wouldn’t take it. Sure, everyone wants a “process”…it keeps the Arab petrodollar states happy and everything feels they are doing something. Livni knows better than most that the “peace process” is a joke and she is acting on those lines, giving up her phony belief that Israel can reach a compromise peace with the Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
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