Foreign Policy Blogs

The Super Coalition Not So Super Anymore

Source: JSpace

The following was taken from Jspace.com.  The article was written by Jspace Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Rob Lattin, who also blogs about Israeli and Middle Eastern foreign policy for Foreign Policy Blogs. 

It is official, Israel’s super coalition experiment was a failure. After just 70 days, Shaul Mofaz and the Kadima party voted to remove itself from the coalition over the inability of the government to come up with a reasonable solution to the Tal Law. The law, which grants military exemptions to individuals from the Haredi community, is set to expire August 1 and was ruled unconstitutional by the Israeli Supreme Court.

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a plan that would have made military conscription mandatory for half the Haredi community, with the other half forced into a national service of some kind. Mofaz rejected the proposal, stating that military must be mandatory for the entire Haredi community.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman also proposed legislation on the matter, but it was rejected by the Knesset.

The coalition’s stated ambitions were a tall order, but they were by no means insurmountable. The body had hoped to: create legislation to bring the ultra-Orthodox into national service within two months; change the system of governance in Israel by the end of the year; pass a budget; and promote what was referred to as a “reasonable peace process.” But, after some reflection, the coalition’s collapse and inability to act on its goals, starting with the Tal Law, should really come as no surprise, thanks to its two main players.

At the time, many suspected that Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz didn’t have the support or the political strength to see this process out. Those pundits were right. What were we really expecting from a guy who sold out his party and constituents (he was quoted at the beginning of Netanyahu’s term as saying that he would never join a Netanyahu coalition), and appears to have acted with significant self-interest in mind (he was appointed Vice Premier)? When the going got tough and the country needed Mofaz to find a way, he wasn’t up for it. The lion’s share of blame, however, resides with the Prime Minister.

Benjamin Netanyahu was designated as the mediator of this coalition by default. He is the one who brought it together. He is the one who needed to gracefully guide it in order for it to work. He failed.

It appears this coalition was never really about getting anything constructive done. It was about convenience and individual power. The super coalition saved Netanyahu from the grueling campaign trail, and since he would have likely won, the task of totally rebuilding a coalition. Instead, he made a last ditch attempt to avoid both and remain in power by bribing Mofaz with the Vice Premiership. His gamble paid immediate dividends. However, he miscalculated by assuming Mofaz would be more acquiescent to his ideology. The Kadima leader had other ideas.

In putting together this coalition, Netanyahu portrayed himself as being a right of center leader who wanted to find common ground with the centrists, but was held hostage by his extremist right partners. His actions within the short-lived super coalition say otherwise. Instead of putting his weight behind the first Plesner committee—even if there were some kinks that needed to be worked out—he unilaterally dissolved it because of right-wing pressure. His only accomplishment during the super coalition’s existence was having a learning institute in Ariel, one of Israel’s largest settlements, made a university. No one doubts that eventually Ariel will be made a part of Israel in any deal with the Palestinians, but there may have been more appropriate times to deal with this issue. By the sheer fact that he isn’t begging Shaul Mofaz to stay in the coalition, his true colors are showing.

This kind of behavior from Netanyahu isn’t new. In November 2009 he led people to believe he was a reformed hawk, a la Ariel Sharon, by installing a 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank. However, he then made unnecessary pre-negotiation demands of the Palestinian Authority, which any strategist could have anticipated would halt the process and render the freeze moot.

Remember a year ago when Netanyahu put together the Trajtenberg committee of inquiry to work with the Israeli social protestors to figure out how he could resolve their problems? He was even quoted at the time as saying he knew he needed to make drastic policy alterations to better people’s lives. At the peak point of the protests a terrorist attack occurred in Eilat and he used that as reason to re-focus on national security. After that nothing really happened with the Trajtenberg committee and there are still tens of thousands of Israelis protesting on the streets of Tel Aviv.

And so, based on the guys who put the whole thing together, the breakup of the super coalition was really all but assured from the start.

The super coalition is gone, along with all the reforms that so many of us dreamed might actually happen. Instead, the Jewish state will probably end up turning to what has become a national past-time, early elections.

 

Author

Rob Lattin
Rob Lattin

Rob Lattin recently completed his Master's in International Affairs at the City College of New York, where he won the Frank Owarish prize for graduating at the top of his class. His thesis explored Democratic Peace Theory and its applicability to small powers, and used the relationship between Turkey and Israel as its case study. Rob received his B.A. in Near Eastern Studies and Political Science, graduating from the University of Arizona with honors.

Rob has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived in Haifa, Israel. In addition to blogging for FPB, he is the Foreign Affairs Correspondent for Jspace.com. He currently splits his time between Washington D.C. and New York City.

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