In the latest move in the circus that’s Israeli politics, Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog and the always flexible Tzipi Livni have agreed to join forces in the upcoming elections.
The deal involves Labor and Livni’s 6 seat Hatnua faction running a joint list of candidates for the Knesset. For those of you not familiar with how this works, in Israel Knesset seats (called mandates) are doled out to each party depending on the percentage of popular vote each gets,and candidates get seated according to where there names are on that party’s list. Since Livni will be number 2 on the Labor list, she’s pretty much guaranteed a Knesset seat.
But wait, there’s more. Herzog was so anxious to get Livni on board that he agreed to a shared prime ministership if Labor wins, with Herzog as prime minister the first two years and Livni the last two years.That’s certain to excite Israeli voters, voting for Herzog and getting Livni!
Now, for Tzipi Livni it’s a great deal. She and her Hatnua faction were likely headed out of government completely because they were unlikely to meet the popular vote threshold to receive any mandates.
But for Herzog, it’s a questionable deal. Apparently the other ‘marriage’ that was rumored, Labor with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid fell through because Lapid and Herzog couldn’t agree on who was going to lead the charge against the Israeli Right. But for some reason, Herzog was willing to be more flexible with Livni even though she brings a lot less to the table than Yesh Atid.
Not only that, but even in the unlikely event Labor gets more votes than anticipated by the polls, the prospect of having Tzipi Livni as Prime Minister is enough to queer the deal on being able to put together a governing coalition all by itself. Livni has a reputation as one of the most despised politicians in Israel. When her Kadima Party actually got the most popular votes in 2009, she was unable to form a government coalition because no one, not even the Leftist parties of Labor and Meretz wanted anything to do with her. Even Shas turned her down. So Netanyahu and Likud were the ones able to form a government, with the Labor Party as part of it.
And when Netanyahu offered her a reasonable deal to bring Kadima into a unity government, she trashed that by insisting on a ‘co-prime ministership’, exactly the deal Herzog just bought.
The really odd part is the price Herzog was willing to pay for such a marginal ally. Livni has a lot of friends in the Obama Administration, because they love her willingness to pull Israel back to indefensible borders and make concession after concession to Hamas/Fatah. Did Herzog receive the promise of some kind of quid pro quo to help in the election campaign from the White House to bring Livni on board?
In any event, while Herzog and Livni may look like newlyweds, it’s pretty obvious who’s the bride here, and it isn’t Tzipi Livni.