The surprise maneuver by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Kadima party Shaul Mofaz to form a unity government and cancel September elections, announced early on Tuesday morning, left a number of winners and losers in its wake.
Mofaz and Kadima are the big winners in the surprise move, which will enable them to rehabilitate the party in time for elections in October 2013. Kadima's Knesset members breathed a sigh of relief when the decision on Kadima entering into a unity government was taken. Recent polls had shown that, with the elections originally planned for September 4, two-thirds of Kadima's MK's would end up out of parliament. Now those Knesset members are ready to stay put.
Despite going against his earlier commitment not to enter a coalition government with Netanyahu - something that he has stated a number of times – with this move Mofaz will at least be able to reform of the Tal Law, which enables ultra-Orthodox youth to defer national service – part of the deal reached with Netanyahu. He will also buy himself time politically.
If the Tal Law is reformed, Netanyahu will get most of the credit, as well as with Kadima's proposal for changing the system of government – also part of the deal reached early on Tuesday. Both are examples of changes that have been under discussion for years, but that no government has yet managed to resolve.
On the list of losers are the parties that were expected to come out on top in early elections, particularly the Israel Labor Party. Labor is in momentum, and was meant to double its power in the Knesset with early elections. Now, party chairperson Shelly Yachimovich, who was set to stand at the head of the second largest faction in the Knesset, will have to spend more time on the opposition benches, and try to sustain the momentum that she has enjoyed since being nominated as party leader early this year.
Meretz was also happy to go to early elections, and according to polls the party was set to double its power in the Knesset with the vote in September. Meretz, however, never intended to enter a government headed by Netanyahu, and it looked like its future was as an opposition party.
Another prominent loser is Yair Lapid, the veteran TV anchor who left his television career earlier this year to launch a political one. Lapid only recently launched his new party – Yesh Atid - and has been busy getting ready for early elections. Now he'll have to wait another year and a half until the next elections. In the meantime, everything he says and does will remain under public scrutiny, but he'll be unable to see support for his party expressed in votes from the public.
Yair Lapid responded to the surprise move on Tuesday morning on his Facebook page, describing the formation of the unity government as "the old kind of politics" and "corrupt and ugly."
"It is time to remove it from our lives," he wrote, adding, "This is politics of chairs instead of principles… of the interests of the group instead of the whole nation. They think that now they will continue for some time, and that we will forget, but they are mistaken. This disgusting political alliance will bury all those involved."
It also looks as if Tzipi Livni, former leader of Kadima, does not benefit from the move either. Since announcing that she was leaving politics earlier this month, Livni has turned into desirable stock in the elections market, with Mofaz calling on her to return to the fold. Now, she will have to follow her fellow party members who have turned into coalition members from home.
Also on the list of losers are all those that pinned their hopes on the coming election – potential candidates, strategists, publicists, spokespeople and others. In some cases, people have changed earlier plans in order to take part in elections, gave up on jobs, took out loans and took on staff and office space. Now, they will have to wait until 2013.
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