The fourth Netanyahu government was put together with blood, sweat, and tears – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s and Likud’s.
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The last twist in the plot, as if devised by some brilliant scriptwriter, came when the former secretary, an abomination in the eyes of the prime minister and his wife but who became a senior member of the sister party, is suddenly catapulted to the position of justice minister and full member of the security cabinet. Now we must wait for coming episodes of the new season – because there will be a sequel, and it, too, will be bloody.
Much will yet be written about these negotiations that ran until the last minute and left Likud without most of its ministerial assets. Meanwhile, the common assumption is that Netanyahu will seek to expand the government right after the 2015-16 budget is approved at the end of summer.
According to political sources, secret meetings have been taking place all along between members of Likud and the Zionist Union who support a unity government. According to these sources, Zionist Union has set a number of conditions for joining the government. They include resuming negotiations with the Palestinians; removing Habayit Hayehudi from the coalition; creating an agreed-upon mechanism for “joint leadership” between Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog; and a partial rotation of the premiership. Herzog vehemently denies that there have been messages of this type conveyed to Likud, but acknowledges that efforts are being made by various emissaries representing only themselves.
Another possibility that cannot be discounted, since around here anything’s possible, is that Netanyahu will prefer to approach Yesh Atid, with its 11 MKs, whose price for joining would be far lower. He would have to give Yesh Atid only three ministries, foremost among them the Foreign Ministry for its chairman, Yair Lapid. Political observers believe that United Torah Judaism won’t veto Lapid so long as all its coalition wishes are fulfilled. The question is whether Lapid is prepared to commit political and electoral suicide to become foreign minister.
If we’re already dealing with scripts, one cannot ignore the revenge motif that has characterized the process of setting up the State of Israel’s 34th government. Readers can decide whose revenge was sweeter – Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman’s on Netanyahu, or Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett’s on Netanyahu.
The former walked out at the 119th minute, leaving the prime minister quivering and totally exposed to pressure and extortion. The second pounced on the opportunity and turned the tables; now the man who until a few days ago was condemned to be the rejected stepchild is now dancing on the table, shoulder to shoulder with Ayelet Shaked.
One cannot ignore the irony – most of this government’s senior portfolios will be held by Likudniks who abandoned ship and succeeded. Moshe Kahlon will be finance minister, Bennett education minister and Shaked, who three years ago almost ran in the Likud primaries, justice minister. The veteran Likud members, who all remained loyal despite the scars on their backs from the Bibi-Sara experience, will have to make do with the leftovers.