Coalition Talks Continue; Who Will Join Netanyahu and Lapid?
A few weeks after Israelis voted in early elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu still struggles to form a new government. Yet, as negotiations continue, an outline of possible points of compromise begins to take shape.
Because Yair Lapid’s centrist party, Yesh Atid, gained an impressive 19 seats, Prime Minister Netanyahu is all but forced to include Lapid’s party in a coalition. What remains unclear is what a coalition might look like that includes both Likud-Beiteinu and Yesh Atid. Part of the uncertainty stems from the fact that the two parties together have 50 seats, 11 short of the 61 needed to form a government. To fill that gap, Netanyahu and Lapid must include other parties.
The obvious choices for inclusion are either the right wing Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett, or the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Because Yesh Atid ran partly on the platform of ending the ultra-Orthodox draft exemption, it seems unlikely that Lapid will encourage the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties. As Likud-Beiteinu plans for a possible ultra-Orthodox draft, Jewish Home has actively supported the initiative as a way to bolster the party’s own position in coalition talks.
Yet, the inclusion of Jewish Home is complicated by the staunchly anti-peace platform espoused by the party. Although he did not campaign based on a peace plan, after the election Lapid has insisted on the resumption of peace talks. Jewish Home also suffers from a strained personal relationship between Bennett and Netanyahu, which may cause Netanyahu to refrain from including the right-wing party.
As coalition talks continue, it is clear that forming a government will require both compromise and sacrifice. Lapid must choose whether he would rather include the ultra-Orthodox, who have placed more of a public focus on advancing the peace process, or include Jewish Home, who are more likely to work with the government to advance the cause of pluralism.
Furthermore, Lapid does not control coalition talks and he must carefully consider the pressure that he applies. If Lapid pushes too hard, Netanyahu may attempt to form a government without Yesh Atid. However, a coalition made up of only ultra-Orthodox and right wing parties would likely lack legitimacy in the eyes of Israelis. And with only 61 seats, such a coalition would be too fragile to survive political turmoil.
As we continue to watch the coalition talks unfold, we must pay particularly close attention to the preference given by leadership to either the advancement of pluralism or the advancement of peace, both of which are core values of the Reform Jewish community.
Image courtesy of Tomer Appelbaum, Reuters