Friday, October 5, 2012

It Would Be Irresponsible for Bibi To Call Early Elections Without Dealing with Iran

It seems that it is almost a done deal that Bibi is going to call new elections for the knesset for February 12th or so.  But I think doing so puts Israel's future at risk as Bibi has not yet dealt with Iran.  While current polls show that his Likud Party would be the largest party by a relatively large margin, the one consistency is Israeli politics is that things change. 

Here are a few things to note.  Any Israeli government is a coalition of several parties and Likud only received about 22% of the vote last time, meaning that 78% go to other people and none of those other factions can really be referred to as dependable.  Many have ethics and loyalties which can be diplomatically referred to as fluid. Take Ehud Barak.  Starting out as head of the left wing Labor party, he surprised many by signing a coalition agreement with Netanyahu in order to get the Defense Ministry portfolio.  He then had a revolt within Labor and had to bolt to form his own Independence Party in order to remain in the coalition and, most importantly for him, keep the Defense Ministry.  Since the Independence Party was effectively just a vehicle for Barak to maintain power, the polls showed that in the next election the party had a good chance of not having ANY seats in the Knesset.  According to Seth Mandel, Barak then developed a strategy of trying to have his nose so far up Bibi's tuchus that Bibi would make him #2 in Likud so that he could keep Defense for another term.  I seem to remember report after report talking about how close the two were, especially on Iran.  But apparently they were close until Bibi realized that making Barak #2 would have caused a revolt within Likud.  Once that happened, Barak decided that self-preservation was his top priority.  He's now visibly split from Bibi, come up with a crazy disengagement plan for the West Bank (because unilaterally withdrawing worked so well in South Lebanon and Gaza, not!) and even met with Tzipi Livni, the former head of Kadima (another person who cares nothing about anything but her own advancement).

I'd like to think that Ehud Barak was an exception but he's not, he's just more successful than most.  The religious parties, Shas and UTJ can generally be bought off with increased subsidies for their yeshivas and other special perks (like students in Yeshiva not having to join the IDF) and have a history of joining both left wing and right wing governments.  Even the smaller secular very right wing parties can't really be depended on.  Sure, they are less likely to join a left wing coalition but that doesn't mean they will join a right wing coalition either.  It's important to remember that the very right wing government of Yitzhak Shamir fell because three small secular right wing parties Tehiya, Tzomet and Molodet bolted his coalition.  This led to a Labor Party victory at the polls and the horrifically disastrous Oslo Peace Accords which armed the terrorists in the PLO, gave them international legitimacy and cost countless Israeli lives.

The point is that even if Bibi has an apparent lead right now, doesn't mean he will be Prime Minister after the next election.  There is talk of former PM Ehud Olmert, Livni and the vacuous talking head Yair Lapid joining forces in the next election.  If Ehud Barak also joins in, this could be a formidable political group.  Also, let's not forget that Labor is currently having a resurgence under Shelly Yachimovich.  Based on the latest polls, Likud + Yisrael Beiteinu (nicknamed Likud Heavy as opposed to Likud Lite for Kadima) + Shas + UTJ would get exactly 60 out of 120 seats meaning they would probably have to include Ehud Barak or Kadima to be able to govern which may or may not happen given quite a bit of animosity on all sides.  That's not to imply that the left is even close to being able to get a governing coalition at this point (I count 43 seats at most out of 120) but a lot can change in 4 months and if, God forbid, Bibi is not re-elected then Iran is all but guaranteed a nuclear weapon.

My hope is that this is all a ploy to make Iran more at ease as they wouldn't think that Bibi would attack when his government is in such tumult.  But that seems doubtful.  It looks like Bibi is playing dice with Israel's future.

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