So much has changed in Israeli politics in the first decade of the 21st century, right? Well, after tonight’s decision to scrap early elections and go for a Likud-Kadima unity government, you could have fooled me. The issues may be slightly different these days, but most of the dynamics are exactly the same.
Now that Labor is back in its comfortable position as the primary opposition, we’ve got a traditional Likud-Labor dichotomy that has characterized the vast majority of Israel’s political history. I don’t think Mofaz will remain in Kadima for much longer; if he wants a higher profile position like Foreign Minister, he’ll need to either merge his party with Likud or break away from Kadima himself. Also, unity governments are always ill-conceived ideas and never turn out well, so there’s that karma.
It’s true that Bibi has gotten smarter since his unfortunate downfall in 1999, but then again the Knesset has also shifted more to the right. Bibi’s maneuvering this time around was more of a well-oiled machine, but it was still calculated based on fear. Bibi was ousted by Barak in 1999 because he was so concerned about his coalition that he spent most of his time flip-flopping and less time actually getting things done. He gave lip service to the Oslo process many a time, but never kept his word. I’m not saying that Bibi 2012 is Bibi 1999, but rather that Mofaz 2012 is Bibi 1999. Mofaz is so worried about his party that he will do anything to save it and his individual political career. Long overshadowed by Livni, he didn’t win the Kadima primary for nothing. He may have voiced support for the social protest movement and previously declared bombing Iran to be a bad idea, but it’s clear that he has an entirely different endgame.
There’s also the issue of Bibi versus the rest of Likud. In the 1990s he couldn’t make certain concessions as required by the Hebron Agreement and the Wye Memorandum not only because his coalition was too fragile, but also because his own party doubted him. The tension between Bibi and Likud MK Moshe Feiglin during the Likud leadership race in January was undeniably divisive, and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor recently told Al Jazeera that “Iran never vowed to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed.” Yesterday, Anglo Likud Central Committee member Gidon Ariel announced that he would run against Bibi for the position of Likud Convention President this Sunday evening. Ariel comes from Maale Adumim, and it’s guaranteed that he and his fellow settler Likudniks are not too happy about Bibi welcoming Mofaz and Kadima with open arms. All of this is likely to continue to cause major tension under the Likud-Kadima unity government. Whether it causes the government to implode a la 1999, on the other hand, is a different issue.
These are just some preliminary thoughts. For more, follow me on Twitter at @awg9988, since I will most likely be tweeting up a storm about all of this.