Adam Gonn
March 5, 2013 - 1:00am

Despite the hard time over the past weeks in talks with his potential coalition partners, Israeli Prime Minister designee Benjamin Netanyahu, who has got an additional 14 days from President Shimon Peres to form a new government, can complete the task, though he kept complaining about the boycott of "certain parties," analysts say.

Netanyahu has so far only added the six mandates of the HaTnua Party to the 31 seats of his Likud-Beiteinu bloc, over a month after the parliamentary elections on Jan. 22. He needs at least 24 more mandates to form a majority government, given the Knesset parliament has 120 seats.

The 31 mandates for the Likud-Beiteinu, formed prior to the January elections by Netanyahu's Likud party and the Yisrael Beiteinu party under former Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman, was a severe disappointment for the dual, which before the elections owned 42 seats.

Besides the low number of seats for the bloc itself, Netanyahu is stranded in a tough position due to the pledge by Yair Lapid, a former journalist who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party that received 19 mandates, and Naftali Bennet, leader of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi that got 12, not to join the government without a new draft law.

However, analysts told Xinhua that Netanyahu now seems only have Lapid and Bennet as possibilities, rather than his long-time coalition partner, the ultra-orthodox Shas party, who opposes a new draft law, since the new law would remove the exception allowing ultra-orthodox Jewish men to defer military or civil national service, which is mandatory for Jewish Israelis, in favor of religious studies.

Dr. Guy Ben-Porat, of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told Xinhua Monday that he is confident that Netanyahu would meet the new deadline to form a coalition government, as "at the end of the day there are enough people that want to be in the coalition so he will be able to make it."

Prof. Tamir Sheafer, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said he is not familiar with any instances in the past that a politician that was supposed to form a coalition did not manage to do it.

"For sure Netanyahu will not be willing to go to new elections, especially now that the Likud got in the polls even weaker, so he will give everything in order not to go to new elections," Sheafer said, adding that "it seems that the only option that he has is Bennet and Lapid."

If indeed Bennet and Lapid join the government, it could give Netanyahu a stable majority with 68 mandates. But it would also mean that any party, except HaTnua, has the ability to bring the government down if it chooses to leave, a situation which Netanyahu has hoped to avoid as that would give the coalition partners too much influence over the government's politics.


Among the positions in the forthcoming government, Sheafer said that foreign minister is very important for Israel, as the country is so much relied on its international standing. But a fit choice seems just not easy.

When HaTnua joined the government, it was agreed that its leader Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister, would become justice minister and also lead the government's negotiations team with the Palestinians in future talks.

Meanwhile, local media said Monday that Lapid is eyeing the position of foreign minister for himself, which could create a problem for Netanyahu, as Lieberman claims the post as his, despite the fact that he cannot be appointed to serve in the government as long as he is in trial for fraud and breach of trust -- a process that could take years.

Israel could then find itself without a foreign minister, and as "Lieberman isn't considered to be a foreign minister who isn't considered to be well liked by the Western allies of Israel ... I' m not sure how much damage Israel will be in by the fact that Lieberman will not serve as foreign minister for a while," Sheafer said.

"Anyway, the most important 'foreign minister' in Israel is always the prime minister," he added.


Meanwhile, the exclusion of Shas from the government is likely to have little or no impact on Israel's foreign policy.

However, rumors are circulating that it might oppose a continued expansion of Israeli settlements -- not for ideological reason but simply to punish Bennet, who has strong support among the settlers, for his alliance with Lapid calling for a new draft law.

On the other hand, Ben-Porat said that leaving Shas outside might have an implication regarding some of the economic issues, as the ultra-orthodox have been very concerned with such issue of children welfare.

"So if you were going to have a government made up by Netanyahu, Bennet and Lapid, it would be a very neo-liberal economics government and that it's going to have a great impact," Ben-Porat said.

"So the ultra-orthodox are not exactly social-democrats, but they did have some mitigating effects on some of the policies led by Netanyahu," he added.


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