You are posting a comment about... Bibi is The Kingmaker in Israel with his Unity Government Masterstroke
Israeli PM Netnayahu anmd DPM Mofaz in new unity government
A tip of the hat to Imre H.
Like a lot of interested Zionists, I woke up in the US Tuesday morning with surprising news from Israel. PM Netanyahu had announced a deal to form a unity government with newly elected head of the Kadima Party, former IDF Chief of Staff, Gen. Shaul Mofaz, an Iranian Jew by birth, as a partner in the new government. Mofaz will become Deputy PM without portfolio in the new unity government. The unity government was approved Wednesday by a vote of 73 to 21 in the Knesset. Until that announcement virtually everyone was expecting Bibi to hold new general elections previously announced for September 4th. The polls generally gave him and Likud a commanding lead. What we didn’t realize was that Bibi had probably begun negotiations with Mofaz on a unity government after his Party leader election victory and the announced retirement from politics of former Kadima leader and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
From discussions with seasoned observers of the Israeli political scene, Netanyahu could have won in a walk this coming September, but it still would have left him brokering a ruling coalition with minority parties for a price. This way with Mofaz aboard, he keeps a political opponent close at hand and involved until elections scheduled for October 2013. On the domestic issues, this new coalition will have more than 94 votes in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. It will enable this coalition of a majority of center right parties to undertake some important long overdue changes in laws talked about for decades. Prime most among these is the lifting of the exemption of the waiver from compulsory military service of the extreme orthodox Israel Jews, the Tal law that has rankled many Israeli parents of draft age young men and women. A second priority is to modify Israel’s proportionate voting system that gave representation in the Knesset to an array of splinter parties that has stymied successive governments since the founding of the Jewish nation. Another is the reform of civil marriage and divorce, currently under the provenance of the Chief Rabbinates, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic, under the system inherited from the Turkish Caliphate carried over from the British Palestinian Mandate. That will make many Israeli couples happy because they would not have to elope to Cyprus for a civil marriage or obtain a get from a Beth Din or religious court for a divorce. The related problem is the twilight status of sons and daughters of Russian olim (immigrant) families of mixed or uncertain parentage. That has resulted in a system of IDF conversions, not recognized by the Chief Rabbis. A number of Russian immigrant IDF service personnel killed in action have been deprived from being buried in hallowed consecrated ground, which rankled the Russian community. Then there are issues about continuation of further privatization reforms, as well as grappling with the compartmentalization of Israel’s educational system. Peace overtures to the Palestinian Authority by Netanyahu have been rebuffed. This despite the urging of President Obama and the Quartet. The peace process in the wake of the Arab Spring is virtually moribund for all intents and purposes. Israel is awaiting the results of the May 23rd Presidential elections in Egypt. Those elections are decidedly more Islamist with both Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood candidates discussing ending the cold peace of the 1979 Camp David Accords. That also raises the issue of what the unity government will do regarding the settlements, compounded by recent Supreme Court decisions regarding destruction of illegal settlements. While that is the hope of the unity government the reality will be a high wire act to obtain the required 81 votes to approve these changes. Australian Israeli commentator Isi Leibler gave this assessment in a Yisroel Hayomcolumn:
Of course, the most immediate benefit of this government would be the demonstration of unity conveyed to the world and the message that the government, far from being a right-wing body, speaks in the name of the vast majority of Israelis. The presence of three former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff in the cabinet also gives credibility to whatever steps we undertake in relation to the threat of a nuclear Iran, solidifying grassroots support for us in the United States. It would also strengthen our relationship with Diaspora Jews and marginalize those abroad who have the gall to tell us that they know better than ourselves what is good for us.
Conservative commentators in Israel like Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Postput the immediate focus on Iran. Her considered judgment was that the unity government would have the freedom to decide when and under what circumstances to undertake a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Glick noted:
That if all other options fail, that Israel will be forced to attack Iran’s nuclear installations militarily.
[. . .]
When taken on its merits, the unity deal is an example of a situation in which Netanyahu was presented with an offer he’d be an idiot to refuse. In return for essentially nothing, he built himself the strongest and largest coalition Israel has ever seen. He gave Mofaz nothing but breathing space for a year.
PM Netanyahu’s warned visiting EU Foreign Minister Ashton in Jerusalem this week that Iran was continuing enrichment while these meetings were going on. Ashton will shortly leave for meetings with Iran nuclear envoys and representatives of the UN Security Council Five Permanent Members and Germany (the P5+1) in Baghdad. The likelihood of a possible Iranian nuclear attack scenario may have also prompted Bibi to cut a deal with Kadima’s Mofaz as it would place three former IDF COS in the security cabinet (Barak, Mofaz and Moshe Ya’alon) to assist in addressing the question of the military options. Pulling the trigger on the Iran nuclear attack is complicated by a number of factors reflected in prior analyses by outside experts and national security journalists in Israel like Ronen Bergman. (See our interview with him in the Feb NER.) A further complication would be whether such attacks would necessitate a three front war: Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The latter two are equipped with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that could range across all of Israel. While the Iron Dome system demonstrated, at considerable cost per kill, the ability to intercept short range rockets and missiles, there is not a full umbrella of air defense over Israel. This despite Rafael Systems manufacturing units working round the clock. It might take a few years to achieve complete protection of Israel. That was not lost on the US Congress when the House recently voted to authorize upwards of $680 million in funds to expand the Iron Dome System. This act was in defiance of the Obama Defense Department, who wanted Israel to share the drawings for the system as a quid pro quo.
The final consideration of when to attack and using what means is obviously known only to IDF planners. The Netanyahu security cabinet knows that while an attack is complicated, it is not infeasible. However, the issue is at what cost in casualties of young pilots, special ops personnel and civilians in Israel.
Hence, while the international media’s first reaction, upon hearing the announcement of the new unity government, was that Israel was girding its loins for an Iran attack, that prospect is not immediately clear as to when it will occur. One thing for certain, any attack by Israel under this new unity government will have the full support of its people, while it may not have the support of the US. President Obama has made it abundantly clear that such an Israeli attack on Iran would be disruptive to the world’s oil trading markets. Moreover, it could impinge on Obama’s goal to be re-elected on November 6th. With Netanyahu’s masterful unity deal, he has eliminated that uncertainty for Israel. Bibi is now considered by fellow Israelis as HaMelech, The Kingmaker in Hebrew, for accomplishing this. How this will turn out we may shortly see.