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Nahum Barnea  

 

Can Bibi betray rightists?

Kadima will only join coalition if Netanyahu shuns some rightist partners

Published: 02.24.09, 18:01 / Israel Opinion

As anyone who ever visited a Turkish bazaar knows, the worst advisor while bargaining is the sweat gland. Legs are a good thing; they allow one to go away and think about it. Hands are a good thing; they allow one to touch the merchandize. Lungs are a good thing, as they allow one to extend the negotiations if needed. Thick skin also helps, not to mention a spine; just don’t sweat.

 

However, Kadima is sweating, and this does not bode well for the future of this party. The political reality created in the wake of the president’s decision finds Tzipi Livni on one end, Benjamin Netanyahu on the other end, and senior Kadima officials scrambling in the middle, sweaty, anxious, and babbling on every possible TV channel. They fully support their leader, Tzipi Livni; the problem is that they’re not sure what she supports.

 

Livni speaks with her colleagues as though she has decided to head to the opposition regardless of anything. Yet she cannot reject the idea of a unity government; after all, she herself called for the establishment of a unity government both before and after the elections. She also cannot condition her entry into the government on agreeing to its Basic Lines; she knows that Netanyahu will agree to any text. A day after the government is formed, the Basic Lines shall be placed in a mass grave, along with the Basic Lines of previous governments.

 

She has nothing left but to cling to what Dalia Itzik refers to as the “blend” – Kadima will join the Netanyahu government only if he shuns some of the rightist parties that endorsed him. Netanyahu is supposed to shun the National Union – he is willing to do that, according to what senior Likud officials are telling their Kadima counterparts – and mostly, he is supposed to dismiss the religious bloc – Shas, United Torah Judaism, and the Jewish Home - or alternately, shun Lieberman. In such government, Kadima will enjoy a veto power, as it will have the ability to either form or topple the government.

 

Such demand makes sense: It creates a coalition of 70 or 74 members in the Knesset, rather than a 93-member coalition that cannot be managed and that the public will despise from day one, and rightfully so, because of the monstrous government it will give rise to.

 

What does Livni really want?

Two separate questions are up for discussion here. First, what does Tzipi Livni really want, and whether her decision to head to the opposition is final and her meeting with Netanyahu was only undertaken for appearances’ sake, or rather, whether it marked the opening position for negotiations.

 

If we assume for a moment that the two have something to talk about, the second question immediately emerges: Is Netanyahu capable of betraying his rightist partners? Shamir and Sharon betrayed their ultra-
Orthodox and rightist partners with no difficulty. They claimed that they prefer the national interest over promises made under pressure. Netanyahu, despite the swindler image he has been labeled with over the years, and perhaps because of this image, will find it difficult to betray.

 

A broad government can only justify its existence if it is as thin as possible. Netanyahu will have to recognize his limits: He cannot bring friends to this bed. Livni will also have to recognize her limits: One does not come to this bed in order to escape it when the first opportunity arises. If she is indeed convinced that Netanyahu is destined to fail, it would be better if she serves the country in the opposition.

 

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