Netanyahu May Move to Center After Vote

Election Is Keeping Him Watching Right Flank

getty images

By Reuters

Published January 17, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to form a new governing coalition after next week’s election, polls show, with the only question being whether he wants to soften its hardline contours.

No one party has ever won a majority in parliament in a parliamentary election in Israel, and Tuesday’s ballot could be followed by weeks of coalition-building negotiations.

The latest surveys predict Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, running with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, will take between 32 and 37 of the legislature’s 120 seats, outstripping the nearest rival, centre-left Labour, which is forecast to win between 15 to 18 seats.

According to the polls, Likud-Yisrael Beitenu, along with other right-wing and religious parties - Netanyahu’s traditional coalition partners - will control some 67 seats after the election compared with only about 40 for any centre-left bloc.

That would give Netanyahu a narrow but relatively strong majority in the assembly.

However, such a coalition might have an image problem abroad, containing uncompromising elements such as the Jewish Home party, which is set to take up to 15 seats and is adamantly opposed to the creation of any Palestinian state.

After his last election victory in 2009, Netanyahu struck a deal with the Labour party, a reassuring presence in the cabinet for many foreign governments because of its historic commitment to U.S.-backed peace diplomacy.

The Labour party quit the coalition in 2011 and under the new leadership of Shelly Yachimovich has vowed not to enter any Netanyahu government, preferring to stay in opposition.

ULTRA-ORTHODOX DEMANDS

However, the prime minister could reach out to two other centre-left parties - Yesh Atid led by former TV host Yair Lapid, and Hatnua, led by ex-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Neither has ruled out a partnership with Netanyahu, and their parties’ participation in a coalition could give him control of some 76 seats, a commanding margin for Israel.

Both parties are committed to resolving the decades-old Middle East conflict. They also want to end military service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men - a pledge that might complicate life for Netanyahu as he seeks a wide coalition pact.

According to one scenario raised in the Israeli media, Netanyahu could try to exclude ultra-Orthodox parties from his coalition, but that could probably only happen if he does better than expected and takes up to 40 seats.

Leaving the ultra-Orthodox out and bringing centrist parties in would ease the way for him to pass austerity measures likely after news this week that the budget deficit rose to 4.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2012, double the original estimate.

Ultra-Orthodox parties have traditionally balked at steep spending cuts, which they fear could reduce state stipends for their own religious institutions.

Another possibility mooted in the media is for Netanyahu to try to exclude the Jewish Home party, led by the hi-tech entrepreneur Naftali Bennett, who was once close to the prime minister but then allegedly fell out with his fiery wife.

Perhaps aware of this danger, the Jewish Home has run campaign ads portraying itself as a natural ally for Netanyahu, adding that its presence in government would help the prime minister resist outside demands to make concessions for peace.

“A strong (Jewish Home) is the only way that Netanyahu will be able to withstand this pressure,” party candidate Jeremy Gimpel told a debate in Jerusalem on Wednesday.


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!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • 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.