If you thought that just because Kadima won Israel’s election last month that Tzipi Livni would be the next prime minister and her party would run the country, well, you would be wrong. And now, it looks like the largest party in the Knesset won’t even be a member of the ruling coalition.

In a nail-biting vote on Tuesday, Labor decided to join the Likud-led government under once-and-future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In order to placate Labor’s demands, Netanyahu agreed to pursue regional peace agreements and honor past agreements with the Palestinians. Sounds fair, balanced, and moderate.

So why is the moderate center party not in the government?

When Livni and Netanyahu last met, Livni said Bibi had been unwilling to compromise on the Palestinian issues and refused to honor past agreements. Netanyahu refused to explicitly say “two states for two people,” according to Livni, although Netanyahu said he implied that policy. With Labor, he has all but said that exact phrase, thereby removing one of Kadima’s main roadblocks.

Despite his platform during the election, and despite his post-election bid for the top job based on the premise of a larger right-wing Knesset bloc, Netanyahu is not a member of the right wing. At most, he is center-right. He wanted to be prime minister again, though, and saw the right wing as his best chance. With 53 MKs before Labor joined, he would have had to woo only one or two more small right-wing parties to his side to survive. He wants more than to just survive, though. He wants to make his mark. To do that, he needs a unity government.

The Israeli people need a unity government, too. They need a government that will be accepted by the international community, a government that can accomplish what the people need without one small party threatening to bring it down for the slightest step toward moderation.

Livni knows this. She knows that a Netanyahu-led Likud is closer to Kadima than it is to Shas. So what’s stopping Kadima from joining the government and creating a wide national-unity coalition?
Pride. And we all know what comes after pride.

J.L.