The Quest For a Grand Zionist Coalition

Netanyahu Hopes for "Unity Government," but Can He Keep Everyone Happy?

Only five days remain until Israel goes to the polls, and while the surging popularity of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party has begun to siphon votes from the frontrunning Likud Party, Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu remains hopeful that he can form the next government.

But while previously the talk was of a Right-Far-Right Coalition with Netanyahu at the helm, more recently Netanyahu has expressed a desire for a unity government, saying he would call on “all of the Zionist parties” to join a broad coalition.

If possible such a coalition could wield enormous power, with polls suggesting it could control upwards of 90 percent of the Knesset (assuming it excludes only the Arabs and the far left). Yet such a coalition would also include such a myriad of positions on the political spectrum that infighting would be inevitable.

In fact, the bickering has already begun. Netanyahu’s promise of a “pivotal” ministerial position to Lieberman has sparked considerable concern from the Labor Party’s rank and file. While Labor chief Ehud Barak has not ruled out joining a coalition including Lieberman, much of the party is pressing hard for him to do so.

For Labor, the choice is stark: joining a Likud-led Grand Coalition as the fourth largest member is unlikely to net them the influence they’ve grown accustomed to in the current coalition. Yet assuming Likud successfully courts the Kadima Party, the alternative is to be the public face of a small and likely ineffectual opposition.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.