Early Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu and opposition leader MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) reached an agreement to cancel early elections and instead form a national unity government that will fold Kadima into Netanyahu’s coalition, giving the combined parties a significant legislative majority, as well as making Mofaz deputy prime minister and Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich the new opposition leader: http://www.haaretz.com/news/
national/in-surprise-move- netanyahu-mofaz-agree-to-form- unity-government-cancel-early- elections-1.428843
A spokesman for Mofaz said that the peace process figures in the unity agreement, and that “part of the deal” Mofaz and Netanyahu have struck is “to turn on the process”: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/
05/08/world/middleeast/leader- of-israel-centrist-party- kadima-agrees-to-join- netanyahus-coalition.html
Netanyahu and Mofaz formally announced the agreement on Tuesday, outlining four priorities for the unity government, the fourth of which is to “move forward responsibly in the peace process”: http://www.jpost.com/
As for an early analysis, one can check out J.J. Goldberg at the online Daily Jewish Forward, who opines that the “Bibi-Kadima Unity Deal Saves the Peace Camp.” Stay tuned to the news to see if he’s correct, but don’t hold your breadth.
A National Unity Government (NUG) essentially means a Government of National Immobility on diplomatic/peace issues. As in previous NUGs, the internal contradictions will lead to doing nothing of real political risk-taking. Unless Bibi pushes nationalist Yisrael Beitenu and Lieberman out of the coalition ( Lieberman now becomes somewhat of a junior partner, and also will probably be indicted for corruption/bribery), there will be nothing pushing movement in the comatose peace process with the Palestinians. Plus, a huge coalition will help Bibi withstand pressure from the US, assuming Obama is reelected.
As they say in Hebrew, in any deal someone “has to swallow a frog”. In this case it’s Mofaz, who only 2 months ago said he would not join a coalition with Bibi. I doubt if Mofaz will be stalwart in opposing the duo of Bibi and Barak in their efforts to bomb Iran, even though in the past he made some comments on the need to coordinate with our allies, and that a nuclear Iran is not just a problem for Israel. Also, Mofaz is well aware of the polls. Kadima was going down, to maybe 12-13 seats (from 30). This is a way to keep the party alive. He previously said he was going to champion socio-economic issues, but it’s one thing to do it when you’re looking for votes, and quite another as Bibi’s partner.
Bibi is obviously the biggest winner in the deal, shoring up his standing both in Israel and on the international scene.
But the biggest loser title in the deal is up for grabs:
Will it be Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party will now be stillborn or aborted? Bibi remembers the success that his father Tommy Lapid had when he led Shinui on an anti-religious platform. He was afraid of Lapid 2.0 tapping into popular discontent. Not now.
Ehud Barak? With no real party behind him, it is only Bibi’s support that keeps him afloat.
The Haredi parties? Both Bibi and Mofaz are making noises about changes to the Tal Law for exemption from military service for the ultra-orthodox. The High Court of Justice ruled that the Tal Law in its current form was unconstitutional. If they can’t keep the yeshiva boys out of the army, will the ultra-orthodox parties be able to stay in the coalition? If they abandon the coalition, what happens with the millions they get for their social and religious programs?
The Labor party and its new head, Shelly Yechimovich? Shelly will be titular ‘Head of the Opposition’, but she won’t have success in fighting any legislation Bibi will want to push through. She may be tempted to join the NUG as a very minor partner, especially if Lieberman and the haredim are forced out. She is being forced to the Left (just a few days ago she said that she could join a coalition with Bibi). She will try to push Meretz back into an alignment with Labor, which would lead to Meretz’ probable demise. Not a good scenario for the Left. Unless Labor joins the NUG, then Meretz becomes THE address for the secular-zionist opposition. When there was the last NUG, Meretz shot up to 10 seats in the Knesset – it could happen again.
The Peace Camp? Shalom Achshav, New Israel Fund, etc. will all be negatively impacted, at least in the near future. Most Israelis will respond by saying ‘we need to pull together and give the NUG a chance’.