Just days after the establishment of Israel’s new far-right coalition government, reports from the nation’s Channel 10 say that the move may be backfiring, and that the coalition is on the verge of collapse amid infighting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett.
Netanyahu and Bennett had been arguing for awhile, but with the introduction of the new coalition, including far-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Bennett has been holding out for an overhaul to the security cabinet, something Netanyahu is rejecting.
This is just one of several problems facing the coalition, as the rightward shift is also alienating relative moderates. With former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon already having resigned, the coalition has lost another minister today, as Kulanu’s Environment Minister Avi Gabbay left, citing concerns about the “extremist government.”
This means Netanyahu is facing pulls from both the far-right Jewish Home and the centrist Kulanu, and polls are showing he could quickly find himself in an awkward position, if the coalition collapses and forces a fresh election.
Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon has been seen attracting a lot of Likud cast-offs as the center-right party of choice, and polls suggest that if Moshe Ya’alon and former Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar joined up with Kahlon, they could outperform Likud in the election.
The same thing happened to Likud before, when Ariel Sharon split a large chunk of Likud off with the formation of Kadima in 2005. Though Kadima ultimately crumbled with Sharon’s deteriorating health, the appetite for a less extreme-right alternative to Likud clearly still exists, evidenced by Kulanu’s strong showing despite being a brand-new, hastily assembled party before the last election.
Reports are that Netanyahu is still trying to attract the center-left Zionist Union into a “grand coalition,” but after spurning them in favor of Lieberman in recent weeks, it seems that ship has sailed, and it would be difficult for what’s left of the splintered Union to join up this late in the game.