Benjamin Netanyahu Cobbles Together Israel Coalition of Rivals

Excludes Haredim in 68-Seat Block With Lapid and Bennett

Benjamin Netanyahu clinched a coalition deal with rivals Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett to form a new Israeli government.
getty images
Benjamin Netanyahu clinched a coalition deal with rivals Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett to form a new Israeli government.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published March 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has successfully assembled a government, after almost six weeks of tense negotiations and pushing up against his deadline on Saturday.

Three parties will serve alongside his Likud-Beiteinu faction: the new centrist Yesh Atid, the staunchly pro-settler Jewish Home, and the Tzipi Livni’s dovish party, known in Hebrew as Hatnua. The government will have the loyalty of 68 of the Knesset’s 120 seats — a smaller majority than Netanyahu wanted.

The coalition deal, which will be finalized later today barring any last minute hiccups, is a highly unusual one for Israel, because it excludes ultra-Orthodox parties, which have been sidelined after propping up governments for decades.

Their exclusion is a result of Yesh Atid’s election success, which catapulted the brand new party in to the Knesset as the chamber’s second largest. Having promised voters that it would work to draft Haredim into the army, it argued that having Haredi parties inside the government would derail its plan, and refused to serve alongside Haredim. Jewish Home also made this demand as part of a strategic pact it forged with Yesh Atid.

While the coalition negotiations began with a focus on issues and principles, in the past few days matters like the Haredi draft took a back seat to discussions on who should serve in what ministry and how large the cabinet would be. And many Israelis are disappointed because they had hoped that the inclusion of a centrist and a dovish party would bring moderation to the country’s two most important ministries.

Netanyahu is holding the Foreign Minister portfolio for Avigdor Lieberman, the hard-right Likud-Beiteinu politician who is unpopular in the international community. Lieberman is currently on trial for fraud and breach of trust, but is expected to return to the ministry if the verdict allows him to do so.

And the Defense Ministry, the address for day-to-day and strategic decisions regarding the West Bank, will go to Moshe Ya’alon, a former military Chief of Staff who thinks that the two-state option is a lost cause, and has said that anybody who sees a solution on the horizon is engaging in “self-deception” and promoting a “golden calf.” He made these comments in an interview in June, during which he said that the conflict is currently a “problem with no solution” and it is conceivable there could be a million settlers in the West Bank.

Settlers and their political representatives reacted with jubilation to Ya’alon’s appointment. Lawmaker Moshe Feiglin, the leader of the hard-line Jewish leadership in the Likud party, considers the appointment “a move in the right direction for the Jews of Judea and Samaria,” his aide Shmuel Sackett told the Forward.

The Defense Minister signs off all new settlement building, but many of the building plans go through the Housing Ministry, which happily for settlers goes to Uri Ariel of Jewish Home, a former secretary-general of the settler umbrella organization the Yesha Council, and its construction arm. Sackett said that with both Ya’aon and Ariel, “we’re looking forward to a lot of positive construction and new life in Judea and Samaria.”

Ya’alon’s predecessor was Ehud Barak, who led the Camp David negotiations with the Palestinians, and while he was criticized by the peace camp for having seemed to move rightwards, in contrast to Ya’alon, is universally regarded as to the left of Netanyahu. Barak was persona-non-grata to settlers, especially since last spring when he swooped in and evacuated a settler house in Hebron while other ministers were still deliberating what to do about it.

Yariv Oppenheimer, secretary-general of Peace Now, commented that the Ya’alon and Ariel appointments send a “very negative message to the world and it seems that there’s a real possibility this government in terms of settlement activity could be much more harmful than the last one.”

He hopes, however, that Tzipi Livni’s appointment as Justice Minister, a position that deals with key decisions regarding illegal outposts, and of Yesh Atid’s Ofer Shelah as Deputy Defense Minister, may lead to some “pressure points” that the peace camp can target with its agenda.

While Ya’alon is hard-line on the Palestinians, he has widely been seen as more cautious than Barak on the possibility of a strike on Iran. Shlomo Brom, a former high-ranking soldier who is now senior research fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told the Forward that he doesn’t expect Ya’alon’s cautious approach to disappear when he takes the Defense portfolio. “When you have more responsibility you become more cautious not less cautious,” he said.

However, Brom said that Ya’alon agrees with the basic premise that if Iran nears bomb production capability, a strike will be necessary — he differs from Barak on timing not on principles. Brom said: “The assumption is that at some time in 2013, probably in the summer, the Iranians will reach a point where the break-out point for producing nuclear devices will be very short and then a decision will have to be taken.”


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!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • 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.