Benjamin Netanyahu - Olivier Fitoussi - 7/5/2012
Benjamin Netanyahu arriving at a Likud party meeting, May 7, 2012. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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In the dead-of-night deal he reached with Kadima chief Shaul Mofaz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acted exactly according to a pattern of behavior established in his current term: avoiding risks at all costs. Netanyahu preferred the 18 months of certainty a unity government provides over going to an elections, despite polls that predicted an easy win.

Netanyahu hates taking chances. He'll always prefer playing it safe and avoiding uncertain situations. As far as he's concerned, the results speak to his favor. Fact is, he's still in power, and will stay there for a long time heading an unbreakable coalition, with Tzipi Livni who used to assault him in her Knesset speeches for his "survival policy," sitting at her Tel Aviv home.

Now, Netanyahu is at his most comfortable. Instead of been dependant on the mood swings of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Likud's right-wing representatives, he has a coalition with two wings, between which he can maneuver. At times he'll break right, at others left, all according to the needs of the moment. He can throw a bone to Lieberman and then to Mofaz; build a settlement and evacuate illegal structures. At times he’ll indicate that war with Iran is near and at others he'll give U.S. President Barack Obama's diplomatic overtures a chance. No politician can dream up of a more perfect situation.

On Tuesday, Kadima's role in politics came to an end after six years in which it changed four leaders, spending time at the top, in the opposition, and back in the coalition. The polls predicted the party's collapse in an upcoming elections. With its deal to join Netanyahu's government, it seems Kadima members forfeited their dream of a strong, independent centrist party. Kadima crashed since, when tested as an opposition party it turned out it didn’t have much to say, providing no real alternative to Netanyahu's regime – other than Livni's refusal to join his government, which in retrospect, shows her to be a woman of principle, a basis for her comeback at the next elections.

Netanyahu's obvious move would be to bring Kadima back into the Likud fold, creating a wide, centrist ruling party. Following the exit of several moderate politicians, the Likud has shifted into an extreme right-wing party in recent years, under the influence of Moshe Feiglin and his representatives at Likud's offices. Their effect had neutralized any chance for a diplomatic progress with the Palestinians. The return of Mofaz, Ronny Bar-On, Meir Sheetrit and Tzchi Hanegbi will have a moderate effect on the party, positioning at Israeli's central political bloc. The chances of a merger of this kind are now greater than ever, a result of a panic taking hold of Kadima's members over the chill that will greet them outside if they try to run in a separate list again.

The interesting question, one which will be answered in the coming months, will be whether or not Netanyahu will stick to his hesitance and playing it safe with Iran as well, avoiding, as he would, any military adventures.

Read this article in Hebrew.