Deadline Looms, as Netanyahu’s Attempts to Form a Coalition Falter

Lieberman spurns last minute compromise offer from Haredim

Six and a half weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was declared the presumptive winner of the Israeli election, there is growing doubt over whether he actually won in a meaningful way. He was given first chance to form a coalition government, and has just 72 hours left before his deadline to do so expires.

The election was effectively a draw at the top, with Netanyahu’s Likud Party securing 35 seats, and the Blue and White coalition also securing 35 seats. A coalition in Israel would require 61 seats total, and the analysts noted that Likud had as many as 65 seats of “natural allies.”

This was purely hypothetical, however, as the right, far-right coalition has yet to materialize, and even if that many seats are natural fits for such a coalition, they’re not all allies of Netanyahu, ad many are openly hostile to one another.

The battle really hinges on the secular far-right, and Avigdor Lieberman’s party in particular, being willing to coexist in a coalition packed with far-right religious parties, who generally want special privileges for the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, they represent.

What it really comes down to is Lieberman wants to apply the draft to the Haredim, while the religious right parties have long sought exemption. The religious parties have offered a last-minute compromise, offering to accept a quota to be drafted from their groups.

Lieberman has rejected the compromise, and it may be more than just a bargaining chip. Reports have Lieberman engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations with the New Right, a faction that didn’t win any seats on its own, based around poll that show that Lieberman’s five seats might grow to 10 if he and New Right ran a joint list in a new election.

That might be enough to convince Lieberman not to make a deal at all, and to bank on faring better in an election re-run. This process could begin Monday, when the Israeli parliament (made up of those elected in April) plans to take a first vote on the process of dissolving itself and moving toward a fresh election.

This is unusual, but not unheard of in parliamentary systems, when no majority coalition can be found. Some within Likud reportedly support a new election, as does the Arab bloc. The Blue and White have said they oppose the move, though it’s not clear they’d have even an outside shot at forming a coalition themselves if given a chance.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.