Monday, March 11, 2013

Imminent Knesset Deal Means Fractures For Likud

While Israel analysts await news of an Israeli coalition agreement, there are two items of interest taking place within the Likud party.

First, Prime Minister Netanyahu will likely support MK Yuli Edelstein to be the Knesset speaker, ousting Reuven Rivlin.  Likud MKs speaking off the record have been very upset by the news, accusing the Prime Minister of caving to the more extreme Yisrael Beiteinu party and threatening an internal intifada in the Likud.  Rivlin is conservative but more centrist than other wings of the Likud.  In 2010, he ignored a committee's advice to withdraw parliamentary privileges for MK Hanin Zoabi after her participation in the Gaza flotilla.  In 2012, he sparred with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the terms of a migrant workers bill, citing international public opinion as a concern.

From the other side of the Likud, the Prime Minister has received criticism from MK Tzipi Hotovely over his choice of the more centrist MK Limor Livnat for a ministerial position.  Many of the far-right MKs in Likud placed higher in the primaries than MK Livnat, and resent their lack of ministerial representation.  This wing of the Likud is already feeling the heat from the all-but-certain coalition between Likud and Yesh Atid.  Since Yesh Atid is a centrist party, right-wing MKs like Hotovely, Danny Danon, and Miri Regev stand to be marginalized - depending on how haBayit haYehudi plays its cards.  They will likely do whatever they can to spoil any policy making that takes Israel in a more centrist direction.

The bigger picture is that the Prime Minister faces a tough balancing act within his own party upon his announcement of the new coalition.  Aligning with Yesh Atid will bolster his policy leverage and standing among the Israeli public.  However, Prime Minister Netanyahu has paid for this alignment with Likud party unity.  In the first few months of the new coalition's tenure, he will have to manage this split in the party to prevent a far-right insurrection which could seriously destabilize the government.