Kadima Joins Ruling Coalition; Bibi Cancels Elections
At the beginning of the week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would force elections a year ahead of schedule, possibly as a referendum on the escalating tensions between Israeland Iranor as a way to deal with the conflicts between secular and Orthodox Israelis over the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Tal Law. But early Tuesday morning, Netanyahu confirmed that elections would be unnecessary because Kadima has joined the ruling coalition. The inclusion of Kadima, the major opposition party to Likud, brings Netanyahu closer to a unity government and simultaneously creates the impression to the rest of the world that Bibi’s foreign and domestic policies are the only credible ones in the Jewish State.
Shaul Mofaz, Kadima’s new leader, has historically been a vocal critic of a preemptive strike on Iran without the support of the U.S. and of Netanyahu’s reluctance to seek a peace agreement with the Palestinians. It is unclear whether his move to join with Likud and other right-leaning political parties is an effort to liberalize the ruling coalition or whether it is a sign that Kadima is becoming more hawkish.
Kadima agreed to join Netanyahu's government on the condition that the Prime Minister support equal treatment for all Israelis (including the ultra-Orthodox) in military recruitment.
Jeffrey Goldberg, columnist for The Atlantic, speculates a few reasons for Kadima’s joining the ruling coalition after years of refusal. The first is: “Bibi is forming the closest thing he can to a national unity government in order to strike Iran if he feels the upcoming P5 + 1 talks about Iran's nuclear program have failed.” Additionally, Goldberg suggests that perhaps Bibi was eager to include Kadima in an effort to reduce the power of the far right within his own party; to delegitimize the rest of the opposition; or to prove to President Obama and to other Western leaders that “More than three-quarters of the Knesset is with me. I amIsrael.”
Goldberg even went so far as to say that the unification of Kadima and Netanyahu’s ruling coalition means that Bibi is essentially Israel’s “Supreme Leader.” That being said, Labor remains opposed to the ruling coalition, calling Kadima’s move “ridiculous.”
A reduction in opposition voices within the Knesset could have serious consequences for relations with Iran and with the Palestinians. If there is no room within the Israeli political sphere to speak out against the hawkish foreign policy of Netanyahu and his defense secretary Ehud Barak, then war with Iran may seem to be the only “pro-Israel” option. Similarly, the lack of a credible opposition within the Knesset could make a return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians unlikely because there would be less outside pressure on Netanyahu to take such action. On the other hand, other experts say that the presence of Kadima in the ruling coalition could strengthen the Israeli government’s deterrence capabilities with regards to Iran, potentially eliminating the need for military action, and could increase the likelihood of renewed negotiations with the Palestinians since the recently signed coalition agreement commits the government to pursuing “responsible” peace negotiations.
Photo courtesy of Reuters