Real Winner in Israel Deal? Not Bibi.

Eluding Pitfalls, Netanyahu May Now Think About Legacy

Behind the Deal: Most observers missed the most important aspects of the grand coalition deal struck by Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz.
getty images
Behind the Deal: Most observers missed the most important aspects of the grand coalition deal struck by Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published May 10, 2012, issue of May 18, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

There are two ways to read the grand coalition deal that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cooked up with Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz on May 8. One is that the wily Netanyahu has once again outwitted his rivals, bought another year as grandmaster of Israeli politics, neutralized the plodding Mofaz and gained almost wall-to-wall backing if he attacks Iran. Mofaz, in this reading, appended his 28-member Knesset caucus to the ruling Likud’s 27 in order to save his neck from a September 4 snap election, which would have cut Kadima’s strength by nearly two-thirds.

This is the prevailing reading among independent observers who didn’t get a spot around the new feeding trough. That’s a pretty limited category, though — mostly limited to the few politicians left in the opposition, plus contrarians, journalists and confirmed Bibi-haters (is that redundant?).

The other reading is that Bibi was headed for a cliff and Mofaz offered him a lifeline that saves them both — in exchange for a hefty turn to the left. Sound impossible? Actually, it’s nigh inescapable.

First, consider the polls. Three different polls released a week before the unity bombshell showed Netanyahu emerging from a September election with the biggest Knesset bloc by far, a commanding 31 seats in the 120-seat house, versus 18 for Labor, the runner-up. Unfortunately, the polls also showed him with a unstable coalition of 61 seats, tops.

Even more alarming was the May 6 Likud convention, where Bibi unexpectedly found himself outflanked by a large, well-organized pro-settler right. Associates say he feared if he won in September he’d end up “a hostage” to extremists unless he found new allies.

Assuming he made it to September, that is. First he has to get past two political landmines planted for him by the Supreme Court. By July 1 he must dismantle five buildings illegally erected on private Arab land in the Beit El settlement. Evicting the 30 families is sure to turn ugly. If he proceeds, he infuriates his pro-settler flank, sparking mass defections to the far right on September 4 and rendering a new coalition even harder. If he defies the court, he faces trouble with Likud moderates.

Then comes the court’s August 1 deadline to annul the Tal Law, which guarantees unlimited army deferments for yeshiva students, and to replace it with some form of universal service. That means either a blow-up with his Haredi/ultra-Orthodox allies — distinct from the modern-Orthodox settler community — or a crisis with his secularist flank, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.