Caught Between Barak And A Hard Place
After Bibi Netanyahu was given the opportunity to form a government there was an assumption that this would be accomplished in short order. But so far, Labor has turned down Netanyahu's offer to join a unity coalition, and Kadima has made no agreements to join either. They're basically calling Bibi's bluff and forcing him to honor the promises of his far-right coalition partners:
Kadima narrowly beat Likud in the elections, making it the largest party in Parliament by one seat, but Likud commands a larger bloc, which includes religious and right-wing parties. Mr. Netanyahu could quickly form a government with these partners but would prefer a broader, less hawkish coalition.
His success will depend on how committed he is to the religious and rightist parties that endorsed him to become prime minister, and what, if anything, he has promised them. Both Ms. Livni, now the foreign minister, and Mr. Barak, the defense minister, have said they will head into opposition before legitimizing a government that includes elements of the far right.
Seems to me that Netanyahu is in a spot. If he rejects his far-right partners and secures Kadima's support, he will have sold out his base. If he creates that far-right government that clearly is his ideological preference, he risks alienating large swaths of the country and the Obama Administration. Thus we have him mouthing the language of peace while rejecting any moves toward it.
Israel's hard-line prime minister-designate, Binyamin Netanyahu, promised Sunday to work with the United States to promote peace in the region as he sought to forge a moderate government with his chief rival -- but did not reach a deal.
Netanyahu's crucial meeting with the centrist Tzipi Livni was intended to persuade her to ally with him in forming a new government and avoid an unwelcome coalition with ultra-nationalists to his right.
But after their meeting, Livni said the two remained at odds regarding talks with the Palestinians.
"We didn't reach any agreement. There are deep disagreements on this issue," she said. "This evening did not progress us on the core issues in a way that we can talk about a joint path."
I give Netanyahu six months, provided he can actually get a government assembled at all. He's just not that good a politician and he proved that in the 1990s. And his global partners are dwindling, especially with his retrograde stance on settlement expansion.
In related news, Joe Lieberman met with his namesake in Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, and had nothing but kind words for him. This is the guy who MARTIN PERETZ calls an unrequited racist. Joe Lieberman just gets classier every day...