Recall all the stories telling us how Likud and Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu had won a great victory at the polls on March 17th ???
Well, it's not just Fox News. They all had it wrong. Netanyahu's group of parties lost 3 seats in the March 17th election.
That was what mattered. Israel always has coalition governments and Netanyahu's coalition got weaker. Usually you see four to six political parties get together, which always involves bargaining for the power positions. That scrum gets all the nastier where there's fewer players in a coalition spectrum.
Yesterday the deal for a coalition was stuck at 53 seats.
They all want know what they want.
Netanyahu made all this worse in 2015 by overpromising appointments, including top rung Ministry positions.
23:59 UTC+2 midnight on Wednesday. End of day for Israel after what is sure to be a tense day for Likud leadership as well as Netanyahu personally. That is the deadline.
Eastern Daylight Savings Time puts New York seven hours behind Jerusalem on the clock. They hit the midnight deadline, we're still at 5 PM. (PDT runs at ten hours lag. 2PM)
As matters stood yesterday Netanyahu/Likud was stuck at 53 committed seats.
That's Likud + Kulanu + Shas + UTJ for 30 + 10 + 7 + 6 = 53 seats.
Of parties on the right, Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beitenu (a.k.a. "the Russians") withdrew. They are secular right wingers, nationalists, not compatible with the deals Netanyahu cut with Shas and UTJ.
Then today Netanyahu cut a deal with Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi (Jewish Home) that focuses on an all-out attack on Israel's Supreme Court and a change to what qualifies for Israeli citizenship.
-- MK Ayelet Shaked is slated to get the Justice Ministry. She's the MK who said on 1-July-2014 that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and called for a destruction out of the Book of Samuel, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”
-- Legislation to limit the Supreme Court with a Knesset override.
-- Further legislation to expand citizenship to overseas Jews, allowing them to vote in Israeli elections. This is planned to bring in 300,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews from New York City and change the election demographic.
Talk about giving away the store? Plus all this conflicts head-on with a commitment earlier with the Kulanu party to protect the Supreme Court.
On paper this addition of 8 Jewish Home seats gives the Netanyahu/Likud coalition a total of 61 seats. That is enough for a majority in the 120 seat Knesset.
But will it hold up? Will the details of this deal with Jewish Home prove acceptable to United Torah Judaism and the Kulanu party?
The way things work over there the parties sign contracts that specify which appointee positions go to which politicians, details of support for numbered Knesset bills, and other matters such as budget commitments and local issues. The organizer for an incoming government takes these contracts to Israel's president, now Rueven Rivlin, 75 and a member of Likud. The president verifies content and declares that the new government will come in to office the following week.
Immediately after the March 17th vote President Rivlin said publicly that he would prefer a middle way with Likud and Zionist Union/Labor and other center parties. He has also voiced concerns that Israel's Twenty Families have too much control.
He has not responded so far to the Likud and Jewish Home plan to give the vote in Israeli national elections to foreigners. The business about giving Knesset a veto on Supreme Court actions appear to conflict with his many statements over the years asserting that Israel's Basic Law is needed to protect minorities.
As matters stand, Kulanu ("All of us") is standing by an earlier statement that a 61 seat government is too weak for them to participate.
It is possible, if unlikely that Yisrael Beiteinu and its leader Avigdor Lieberman will reverse course and bring the total to 67 seats. There is no indication that will happen. There are also leaks from Likud's propaganda allies suggesting that elected MK's will leave Zionist Union/Labor to strengthen Bibi's coalition. Whatever those Ad Biz guys are smoking, Willie Nelson wants some.
Looking at the paper contracts with a five party coalition, Netanyahu has got himself to a bare bones 61-seat majority coming out of the March 17th election.
Considered without extremist capitulations to Jewish Home party, Netanyahu's "great victory" got him to 53 seats.
The extraordinary concessions to Jewish Home pumped that up to 61 seats.
Overpromising the Foreign Ministry has led to withdrawal of Yisrael Beitenu (a.k.a. "the Russians.") This is a secular party. Nationalists. 6 Knesset seats. Their interests are not compatible with details of the deals Netanyahu cut with Shas, UTJ and now Jewish Home.
Turning Israel from a Jewish State into a theocracy with 12% to 15% of its electorate residents/citizens of other countries ??? And a debilitated supreme Court? I wonder how many March 17th voters would have thought those changes were on the table?
Today and Tomorrow
Getting to 61 seats with the paper contracts is one thing. That work is done in secret. Holding it together in public under these circumstances -- forming a working government -- will be more difficult.
If things go bust today or tomorrow, what will be the follow up? A 61-seat government would be intrinsically unstable. Kulanu has already said that they will not participate in such a coalition. So either the current Likud coalition finds additional strength or it seems forced that this round of government-forming will fall short.
If so, if this attempt fails, then another party would be selected by President Rivlin to attempt to form a coalition. Most likely that would be Zionist Union.
And if that fails there would be a snap election. Considering how Netanyahu screwed around during the campaign and then after the March 17th election, results might be expected to come out differently.
Do Israelis want their Supreme Court weakened and non-resident foreigners voting in their elections?