Wheeling and dealing

Wheeling and dealing

Just when you thought a Likud-led narrow right-wing government was all but assured, Jerusalem Post reported tonight (and YNet reported YESTERDAY) that Likud and Kadima have renewed negotiations. According to the leaked details – which may change at any minute since Israeli politics are so fluid – Netanyahu would hold the premiership for the first three years and Livni would finish out the final 21 months.

Bibi campaigned hard for the right wing in this election and his whole argument to be prime minister was that the right-wing bloc was bigger than the center or left-wing blocs, even though Kadima technically is the biggest party. He had lined up Shas and Israel Beitanu and other small right-wing parties to form a narrow coalition that could collapse at any moment if one party pulled out. But he had also been courting Kadima and Labor. Labor leader Ehud Barak seemed eager to join the coalition but he faced an uphill battle within his party. Livni reportedly walked out of the first meeting with Bibi without a deal and said Kadima was heading to the opposition. She had reportedly suggested a power-share then and Bibi refused.

Now we see Bibi’s true colors. He may have campaigned and fought for the right-wing but he knows his government stands very little chance of success unless it is broad and moderate. While Israel Beitanu is the third largest party in the country, Bibi needs more than that. He needs Labor or Kadima. He needs one or both of those parties to create stability for the government – especially since the right-wing parties won’t support negotiations with the Palestinians – and he needs them to help Israel’s image on the international stage – especially with the Obama administration.

So now apparently he has come back to Kadima with the very plan he had turned down a few weeks ago. Hopefully, he will be able to form his wide coalition and Israel can have a stable government that can actually get something done.

And if you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s irony. These roles were basically reversed in September after Livni won the Kadima primary and tried to create a coalition. Netanyahu refused to create a unity government then and forced the elections. Now he’s all but begging Kadima to join his coalition and create a unity government for the good of the country. I interviewed Bibi two years ago and he told me then that he wanted to be prime minister again. This certainly was no secret. Apparently, what’s good for the country can come only on Bibi’s terms and not when somebody else is in the top job.

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