Yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu formed a coalition government. This lets him avoid early elections, remove nettlesome distractions, and prepare for war.
The Netanyahu-Mofaz coalition
Benjamin Netanyahu leads the Likud (literally, Union) Party, one of the two largest. The other is Shaul Mofaz’ Kadima (literally, Forward or Eastward) Party. Until yesterday, these two parties were the governing and opposition parties in the Israeli Knesset. Netanyahu led an often fractious coalition, because the Likud does not have a majority in the Knesset. His coalition partners, the Shas (Sfaras’ Guards) Party and the Yisrael Beitenu (Israel, Our House) Party, squabbled constantly and threatened to bring the government down. Netanyahu was ready to “go to the country”: dissolve the Knesset and call elections a year earlier than their regular date (next year). But early yesterday morning, Netanyahu and Mofaz came to terms.
They formed a national unity government, and today the Knesset approved it, by a vote of 71 to 23. Netanyahu and Mofaz together now command 94 seats out of 120. Mofaz will work with Netanyahu until October of 2013, the date of the next national elections.
Arlene Kushner, a blogger inside Israel, gave the first details. (Remarkably, this content is no longer available on her own site. She does not explain why she took it down.) The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Star (Lebanon), and The Washington Post gave samples of how the world press reacted.
Netanyahu solves two domestic problems…
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. Photo: US Department of State (taken during his visit to the USA, during which Obama had him ushered out the back door of the White House while Obama dined privatelyl with his family.)
Netanyahu obviously did this because he had to solve two vexing domestic problems before he could possibly give a war order. One problem affects directly his ability to make war. Today, ultra-Orthodox Jews can get out of the draft if they study to become rabbis. Furthermore, the government subsidizes their studies. The Shas Party insists on it; the Yisrael Beitenu Party resents this. Why should everyone else risk his or her life while religious students go to seminary and pay little or no tuition?
Netanyahu turned to Mofaz to help solve this problem. Mofaz seems the perfect choice. He was once chief of staff of the Tzahal, and Minister of Defense under an earlier Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. He will lead the effort to reform the system and decide how to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into the larger society. This could mean that they have to carry rifles and marching kits, same as everone else. Or they could serve their country in some other way. No one knows for sure how Mofaz will solve that problem. Netanyahu made him Deputy Prime Minister and presumably will not interfere.
The other issue strikes at the Jewish state’s reason for being. The Israel Supreme Court decided that the Givat Ha’Ulpana settlement in the Judea/Samaria (“West Bank”) region is illegal, and the government must tear it down. The deadline: July 1. The only way to preserve that settlement is to rewrite the law. Netanyahu and Mofaz have time to write a new law, if they care to.
…and prepares for war
Netanyahu wants these issues out of his way. He has three major international issues to deal with. Barack H. Obama, the putative President of the United States, has made himself an issue for more than a year. While Israel celebrated first her independence, then her union of Jerusalem, Obama said that Israel must eventually give up all her gains from the Six-day War. Netanyahu already has several Israelis suspecting that he will give away the store.
The “peace process” is the one issue that always divided Likud from Kadima. Mofaz has been a dove; Netanyahu a hawk. How these two will work together, none will guess.
But the most important issue is Iran. Al-Quds al-Arabi says flatly that “Netanyahu has formed a war government.”
No one knows what goes on through the mind of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on many regional issues these days. One can predict that this man is scheming and planning wars after murdering the peace process with the settlement policy in the occupied Arab territories.
Al-Quds fears that Netanyahu has a strong-enough hand to attack Iran and reoccupy Gaza and even southern Lebanon. Israel has occupied southern Lebanon more than once, and given it back each time. Israelis don’t seem to feel any historical tie to southern Lebanon. But Iran’s friends the Hizbollah (Party of Allah) camp there, and the Tzahal might want to clean them out. They would have two reasons:
- To stop rocket attacks on northern Israeli towns and villages, and
- To prevent Hizbollah from firing anti-ship missiles at natural-gas wells and/or ships at sea.
The Gaza Strip has harbored terrorists for years. The “Islamic Resistance Movement” (HAMAS) control the Strip now, and residents of Sderot and other towns in the western Negev endure almost daily rocket attacks, usually with only fifteen seconds of warning.