Kadima's entry into the government puts Benjamin Netanyahu at the head of a broad coalition of 94 Knesset members. That gives him almost complete freedom of action over the remaining year and a half of the 18th Knesset's term. The parliamentary opposition has been dwarfed and neutralized, while coalition factions will have trouble threatening to topple the prime minister from power.
Now, with the early election canceled, Netanyahu will have to decide how to spend his remaining time in office: Will he continue to run in place beneath the shelter of his broad coalition, or will he work to implement his June 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University by reaching an agreement with the Palestinians and delineating permanent borders for Israel?
For the last three years, Netanyahu has tread water, painting himself as the captive of both his political partners on the extreme right and senior members of his own party, who broke right due to their own ideological leanings and the influence of Moshe Feiglin's followers in Likud party organs. His government did not advance the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, it accelerated construction in the settlements, got into fights with the American administration and deepened Israel's international isolation.
In recent weeks, the pressure on Netanyahu has increased due to High Court of Justice rulings that obliged him to evacuate settlers from the Migron outpost and Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood, whose houses were built on privately owned land stolen from Palestinians. The right was demanding that Netanyahu not carry out the court's decisions, urging him instead to perpetuate the land theft via legislation.
His new partnership with Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz frees Netanyahu of pressure from the extreme right and strengthens the government's moderate wing. Now, all the excuses about how "Netanyahu can't" no longer exist. Netanyahu can and must carry out the High Court's decisions, evacuate Migron and Ulpana, and resume talks with the Palestinians with no evasions and no superfluous preconditions.
This must be his goal over the next 18 months. If he instead wastes his time on threats of war with Iran or empty moves to change the system of government and draft the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs into civilian national service, Netanyahu will waste the enormous political opportunity that his agreement with Kadima has given him.
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