Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Israeli Coalition Scenarios

Kadima wins but Bibi Netanyahu becomes Prime Minister.

This is how I called it last night before I went to bed. It sounds as crazy as Victor Krum catching the golden snitch but Ireland winning the Quidditch World Cup but it is quite plausable.

It's 5:15 AM in Israel and finally all of the votes have been tabulated. Centrist Kadima won with 23% of the vote (28 seats) followed closely by Right-wing Likud with 27 seats. I had expected Likud to win but apparently not. However I wouldn't count Likud out yet. President Shimon Perez will now call on the head of the winning party, Tzipi Livni to form a coalition. I don't think she can do it. To make A coalition government one must have a combination of at least 61 seats out of 120 seats in the Knesset, meaning a combination of multiple parties. If Kadima wanted to form a coalition government with all the leftist parties they would fall 6 short, and that's implying that all of the left wing parties join them (which they won't).

Left & center 28+13+3+4+4+3 = 55
Kadima 28
Labor 13
Meretz 3
Hadash 4
United Arab List/Ta'al 4
Balad 3

They NEED the right wing parties here. Likud trails by only a seat and within the entire right wing there are 65 seats. Likud could conceivably form a pan-right coalition/phalanx without the inclusion of Kadima.

Right 27+15+11+5+3+4 =65
Likud 27
Yisrael Beitenu 15
Shas 11
United Torah Judaism 5
Jewish Home 3
National Union 4

As long as Shas doesn't whore itself out to the highest bidder as it did last time (especially as their spiritual leader pronounces his next controversial statement), Likud has Kadima in a vice grip. Likud is likely going to hold out, as is far-right wing Yisrael Beiteinu and not immediately attach themselves to coalitions. The rest of these parties will follow suit.

When Tzipi Livni tried to form a coalition government after the special Kadima Primary after disgraced Premier Ehud Olmert stepped down last year she failed miserably. And now she has even LESS supportive parties. The Arab parties have said they would boycott any coalition that included anyone who demanded a loyalty oath so there is no way any Arab party (the viable parties being Ta'al/UAL, Hadash, and Balad).

About the loyalty oath. Avigdor Lieberman, head of the third place winning Yisrael Beiteinu party has demanded that all citizens of Israel need to take a loyalty oath to Israel just as one must take a loyalty oath to become a citizen of the United States (or in any elementary school classroom's Pledge of Allegiance). If one refuses to take this oath, they will be stripped of their citizenship, right to vote, and right to run for public office but will remain as permanent residents of Israel.

Labor, once the winningest party in Israel's history (they held control from the founding of the modern state until Menachem Begin's Likud finally wrested control in the 70s) has now fallen to fourth place, and although I like their leader Ehud Barak, I don't know if he will have that much of a role in the coalition.

So there are a number of scenarios that can play out, and as long as Shas stays out of trouble it will be a right wing government. Kadima now needs to decide how much it will capitulate to the right or risk being the head of the opposition. President Peres is mandated to appoint the person he feels most likely to be able to form a coalition to do so, but Livni might be passed over for Bibi Netanyahu because Tzipi is likely to fail once again. We shall see. Whatever happens, I hope it is for the best of Israel.

Oh, and Haaretz seems to agree with my theory


sam said...

The Pledge of Allegiance is not a loyalty oath, and you can't be made to say it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

Matt said...

Hi Sam, while that is technically true, you ARE pledging allegiance to the republic. But yes, it is not in the form of an oath, at least within Jewish law, which I imagine the Israeli "oath" will apply. A Shvua would traditionally invoke God's name and it is very discouraged in both Torah and Rabbinically. The American constitution allows anyone, even the President-elect at inauguration to "affirm" in lieu of "Solemnly Swear"ing for this reason. However certain things, such as swearing fealty to the Israeli Defence Force upon installation (the famous cry "Ani Nishba" ("I swear!") three times.

It has been a constitutional question, but most elementary school children recite it by rote and never think about what they are saying. I do want to point out, and I didn't look at it until now, but the first line of the Wikipedia article for "Pledge of Allegiance" is "The Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag is an oath of loyalty to the country". Interesting...

sam said...

You are absolutely correct: most elementary school children have no idea what it is they're saying. Do we really think this is a good thing? (For that matter, a lot of elementary school children mindlessly repeat a whole load of nonsense.) But you still can't be forced to say the pledge. If a kid didn't say the pledge, the state has no power to punish the kid. And it shouldn't.

Forcing people to take loyalty oaths (or "pledges") to the state—whether it be specifically Jewish or not—and threatening to revoke their citizenship if they don't do so smacks of fascism, and when you throw in the Jewish angle it smacks of racism, whether it's a shvua or a neder or whatever. That's not the important point.

The very idea should offend anyone who values human rights and civil liberties. If the United Kingdom—where there is already an established church—made all its citizens swear an oath of loyalty to the state as a Christian nation, you can bet your rear end Jews (and Muslims, and Hindus, and atheists, etc. etc.) would be lining up to protest. What's the difference?