While both the Likud Party and the Kadima Party have been holding rather premature victory celebrations, the battle lines are being drawn for what could be a protracted battle to secure the endorsement of the third largest party, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which effectively has become the kingmaker in the election.
Israeli President Shimon Peres ultimately gets to decide which of the two parties will get the first crack at forming a coalition government, and both parties think it should be them. Kadima argues that with the most seats they should get the first opportunity, while Likud argues that as the natural leader of the stronger right wing they have a better chance of doing so and should be given precedence.
Top Shas official Eli Yishal appears to have thrown his 11 seats behind the Likud coalition, while Labor’s 13 seats seem more likely to support a Kadima faction. The smaller parties will likely break narrowly in favor of Likud. With such a close race the prospect of a unity government has likely gone out the window. That just leaves Lieberman.
It had been assumed that Yisrael Beiteinu would support Likud, but the disproportionate amount of power the party has in such a close race will allow them to go free agent and play for the team which offers them more. So far Lieberman’s primary demand is a new war in the Gaza Strip, but his major campaign promise was requiring loyalty oaths which would strip the citizenship of much of Israel’s Arab population, as well as some of its more religious Jews. It’s not clear which bloc is more likely to give him what he wants, but Kadima’s Tzipi Livni is meeting with Lieberman in an attempt to woo him to the left-centerbloc.
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