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UPDATE2 Israel: Netanyahu coalition announced at 61 seats. Kulanu leaks “63 seat voting block”

Recall all the stories telling us how Likud and Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu had won a great victory at the polls on March 17th ???

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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. Now Israel faces a weak Right Wing government that comes in with a 61-59 margin which is weaker than the government in place through 2014.

And then this morning the Kulanu party leaked the text of its agreement with Likud: “freedom to vote” is emphasized. Kulanu's 10 votes in Knesset are not tied to support for the various deals that Netanyahu cut to bring in UTJ, Shas and Jewish Home. Kulanu remains adamant in opposition to changing the status of the Supreme Court (High Court of Justice), conditions for citizenship and voting rights, land and likely over the “Jewish nation-state” bill as well.

Yesterday morning the deals for a coalition were stuck at 53 seats. Netanyahu had made things worse in 2015 by overpromising appointments, including top rung Ministry positions. He had to capitulate to Jewish Home to reach 61 seats for a minimal governing coalition.

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What he got was this 61 seat “ruling” coalition. Likud keeps the army, the police, Mossad, other intel operations, and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committees. Wars and meting out punishment are all they care about. The substance of daily life in Israel was handed over to lesser mortals: the treasury, planning and residential construction, economics, employment, education, health, religious law/courts, civil courts, and immigration. No part of that remains in direct Likud control.

And Kulanu's “63 seat voting block” is committed to stopping bills attacking the courts, changing immigration, changing military service — that's likely to remain intact, setting compass point for the Knesset in 2015.

Helluva government, eh? When the Far Right parties realize that they're not going to get what Bibi promised, we could see Kulanu's 63 Block voting to keep Likud in office at least long enough to restart the residential housing construction industry. That's for 25,000 new starts immediately and another 50,000 start permits within 6 months.

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Deadline

Two hours before the deadline at 23:59 UTC+2 midnight on Wednesday the supporting documentation was delivered to President Rivlin. We're looking at next week for this government to take office.

Blockade… Relieved

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As matters stood Tuesday Netanyahu/Likud was stuck at 53 committed seats.

That's Likud + Kulanu + Shas + UTJ for 30 + 10 + 7 + 6 = 53 seats.

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.

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Then today yesterday 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 it takes to qualifies for Israeli citizenship. JH is the main party of “settlers” in the West Bank. [Kulanu's position remains tied to blocking these changes.]

— 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. American Liberal and Conservative Jews would not qualify.

Talk about giving away the store? A jump-the-shark event? Plus all this conflicts head-on with a written 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.

Coalition Mechanics

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. These contracts go 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.

Zionist Union said no.

Rivlin has not responded so far to the Likud and Jewish Home plan to give the vote in Israeli national elections to foreign Jews. The business about giving Knesset a veto on Supreme Court actions appear to conflict with Rivlin's many statements over the years asserting that Israel's Basic Law is needed to protect minorities. Keep in mind that Rivlin is representative of his generation of Likud members.

As matters stand, Kulanu (“All of us”) made an earlier statement that a 61 seat government is too weak for them to participate. Individual Kulanu members reaffirmed commitment to this position earlier this week. [Today they leaked they took another look at it and realized that the voting majority in this Knesset goes to a Left-Center block for domestic issues. They don't need much more than 90 days in office to release 25,000 units of residential construction permits. Go 6 months and that goes up by another 50,000 units.]  

As long as Netanyahu doesn't invade Lebanon or nuke Iran, it could work out.

It is 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. (He also wants seeds.)

Summary

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 the extreme capitulations to Jewish Home, Netanyahu's “great victory” got him to 53 seats. 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 thought that those changes were on the table?

What happens next time?

Today and Tomorrow

If the 61 seat coalition goes down in the first months, there will 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 substantially differently.

Do Israelis want their ruling coalition putting efforts to weakening their Supreme Court and having non-resident foreign Jews voting in their elections?

Bibi's deal making would have allowed all of that and more. And if somehow the Kulanu party doesn't drop the anchor and there's no rebellion inside Likud, that's what they would be getting.

Helluva “great victory,” eh?

Likud kept its share of the Perpetual War machine. Domestic policy, not at all. What's happening for Israel ranges from true reform with residential construction to insanity with the Jewish Home felangists taking over the Justice Ministry.

“Great victory”… wow.

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