Thursday, July 21, 2011

Knesset Coalition Breakdown?

In a continuation of his escalation against Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman today condemned the Prime Minister for considering an Israeli apology to Turkey over last year's flotilla incident. In the wake of yesterday's Knesset vote on establishing panels of inquiry into left-wing NGO's, Netanyahu now has the task of reaffirming his conservative credentials within the limits of American Jewish, US Government, and international expectations.

Yet Netanyahu and Lieberman still have overlapping bargaining ranges. Ultimately it would not be in Lieberman's interest to quit the coalition right now any more than it would be in Netanyahu's interest for him to leave. In a sad microcosm of Israel itself, the lack of a credible alternative forces two dissatisfied parties to maintain the status quo. Eventually this will shift such that one side defects from the coalition, but at the moment things are likely to remain as they are.

One key indication of how long the status quo will last is the extent to which Netanyahu is able to broker a covert agreement with Lieberman. If Netanyahu can make under-the-table promises, he will be able to maintain the coalition while saving face. However, Lieberman may call on Netanyahu to make a public commitment. If that is the case, Netanyahu will have a much more difficult time navigating the myriad contradictory constraints he is under as Prime Minister.

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