Bibi’s Obvious Option: Coalition with Lapid and Bennett
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his weekly cabinet meeting.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90
Benjamin Netanyahu’s main goal at this point is a government of at least between 65 and 67 seats. There’s no point in squeezing through with a coalition that would be living at the mercy of its members.
This leaves out a purely right wing government that would include Shas, Torah Judaism, Jewish Home and even Power for Israel. As much as our hearts are yearning for just this coalition, it doesn’t seem likely.
Besides its vulnerability, because of its size, it would not support the one issue over which Netanyahu has gone to the voter in the first place: the necessary budget cuts to cover a $10 billion deficit.
Two winners tonight, Yair Lapid with a projected 19 seats and Naftali Bennett with 12, would likely partner with Netanyahu in support of those cuts. Shas and Torah Judaism would likely balk at steps that would victimize their core voters.
So the first two alliances Netanyahu is likely to pursue should be Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi. That’s 62 seats, which is a good foundation for a government that can be expanded.
Tonight, Labor Chair Shelly Yachimovich spoke harshly and bluntly against going into a partnership with Likud-Beitenu, which she described as being on the opposite side of an ideological abyss. Whether or not she was planning to jump over said abyss — after tonight’s speech it would not be a simple feat.
It is possible that Netanyahu will put together his 62-seat government, and after he passes the budget cuts he would then start negotiations with Shas to join his government — and at that point, after starving them a little in the opposition he could get them cheaper.
It is vital for Netanyahu to position himself at the center of his own government, flanked to his right and left by his coalition partners. It would be terrible for him to be either the leftist edge of a right-wing coalition or the right winger in a leftist government. That makes Lapid and Bennett his ideal partners.
Incidentally, it’s important to note that, party for party, Lapid has as many if not more seats than Netanyahu’s Likud faction without Liberman’s Israel Beitenu. This may be just Lapid’s fleeting moment in the sun, or the start of an amazing career of a brilliant politician — no one knows. The same could be said about Bennett.
The coming negotiations with Bibi and his Likudniks would be a good testing ground for both gifted young men.