Monday, July 2, 2012

Bet On Bibi - Why The Coalition Will Last

Making bets about the political future of the Middle East is a horrible idea.  The politics of the region are complex and often unstable, and one need only look to the Arab Spring as proof.  Which is why making a bet with Foreign Policy's Allison Good that the Israeli governing coalition will last out the week is risky on the part of this blogger. 

Nonetheless, policymaking often involves taking an educated guess.  If the guess is wrong, we can then reexamine which of its underlying assumptions were faulty.  At the present time, here are what appear to be the most salient of these assumptions in regards to Israeli politics:

1) Never.  Understimate.  Bibi.   Prime Minister Netanyahu is an intelligent and cunning head of state.  He knew very well that scrapping the Keshev Committee (on expanding IDF enlistment) would jeopardize the newly formed coalition with Shaul Mofaz and the Kadima party.  The Prime Minister has faced down much bigger challenges to his coalition in the past, and the odds are in favor of him doing so again.

2) MK Mofaz would gain little by quitting and a lot by remaining part of the coalition.  He has little to gain by quitting such a large coalition in which he has so much power, especially in such a short period of time.  If he can pressure the Prime Minister but remain in the coalition, Mofaz will emerge out of this debacle stronger than he went into it.  If he leaves the coalition, elections will be a messy business that are likely not worth the effort.  

3) The Israeli public sides with MK Mofaz.  The reason PM Netanyahu scrapped the Keshev Committee is that several MKs had defected from it and the committee was not being effective.  The Israeli public may support ending an unproductive committee.  However, it also largely supports the committee's end goal of legislating more inclusive service in the IDF by Arabs and Haredim.  If Bibi loses the coalition, this issue will likely be a major campaign item for Mofaz that will resonate with Israelis.  The odds are that PM Netanyahu will go to great lengths to find a deal with Mofaz (as he's already been trying to do).  If the coalition breaks down, Netanyahu's credibility with the Israeli public may be damaged as a result.

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