Netanyahu and Mofaz -- May 2012
Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Shaul Mofaz: They bought some time, which will be spent with head in sand. Photo by Michal Fattal
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The "national unity government" that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz set up on May 8 as an alternative to holding early elections has collapsed after 70 days. All the expectations and hopes that a broad coalition with the participation of Kadima would bring about changes in the foreign policy and internal policy of the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox government, have been proven false. The dubious partnership between Mofaz and Netanyahu faltered during its very first test - their joint effort to formulate an agreed-upon alternative to the Tal Law that exempted ultra-Orthodox men from military service. The two leaders did not even make an attempt to work on the other issues that they pledged they'd deal with when they came together: changing the system of government, moving forward the diplomatic process with the Palestinians and approving a budget for 2013.

The responsibility for the failure must be placed first and foremost on the shoulders of the prime minister. Netanyahu was given a rare opportunity to free himself from the hold of his "natural partners" from the extreme right and the ultra-Orthodox camp, and to make progress on matters of national interest, such as improving relations with the United States, reviving negotiations with the Palestinians, preparing the budget for a recession, and solving the crisis over the draft. He could have worked on these issues with the backing of a broad coalition, in which the extremists have less influence. But Netanyahu chose to throw aside the political gift he had received from Mofaz. Instead he stuck to the agenda being dictated to him by the leader of the extremist Jewish Leadership faction of the Likud party, Moshe Feiglin, as well as by Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman and Shas chairman Eli Yishai.

The most important decision taken by the short-lived unity government was to declare the higher learning institute in Ariel a university. This is a wretched decision that harms Israel's foreign relations and puts the entire Israeli academic world at risk of being boycotted. The decision was taken only because of the pressures that was put on the ministers of education and finance, who wish to placate the settlers and their representatives in the Likud. There is no more salient expression of Netanyahu's distorted order of priorities. Mofaz lost all his credibility during his short term in the government. But his vacillation, his flip-flopping from opposition to coalition and back to opposition, also provides the country with an opportunity: We can cut short the damaging term of office of our current right-wing government.

With no possibility of approving a budget or formulating a new law on the draft within the existing political structure, new elections must be declared early. And the time that is left before those elections are held must be exploited by the camp opposed to the coalition of Netanyahu and his natural partners. They must get organized and established.