Michael Hilkowitz

It’s Just a Pipe Dream

There is a moment.

“There’s a moment after you cast the die but before it hits the table. Breathe wrong and you’ll change the way it lands.” – Bill Baily

This quote from the West Wing sums up Israeli politics pretty well at the moment. After the surprising election results we witnessed a month and a half ago, all of the pundits seem to be clear that Netanyahu would be able to, fairly easily, put together a 67 seat government. That was a month and a half ago, and the coalition building process has moved at snail’s pace.

Today Avigdor Lieberman announced his party would be headed into the opposition, leaving Netanyahu with only the possibility of a narrow, 61 seat coalition, that would be beset, primarily by infighting between the orthodox and the ultra-orthodox over how much, and in what ways, they get to control the religious life of non-orthodox Jews. That is if Likud is able to get Naftali Bennett to sign on the dotted line.

Let me start by saying I am well more to the left of the spectrum than the right of the spectrum. I voted for the Zionist Union, and I voted Meretz before that, but I believe in compromise more than I do any particular viewpoint. I like the idea of all the parties going home a bit disappointed, this is how parliamentary government should work in my opinion.

If we get to May 8th, what happens? Well, President Rivlen can ask someone else to form a coalition. The obvious choice would, of course be Issac Herzog, as leader of the second largest party in the Knesset. But, it doesn’t have to be.

President Rivlen can ask anyone. Looking at the numbers, Herzog would have a much harder time putting together a coalition than Netanyahu has. I for one doubt he could even do it. And then we go back to elections again? What a waste. But it doesn’t have to be. President Rivlen could ask someone else. He could ask the leader of a centrist party, one that has no animosities and no political grudges. He could pick a party that didn’t spend it’s time during the election bashing other parties, solidifying enemies, and talking about who they would or wouldn’t sit in a coalition with.

President Rivlen could ask Moshe Kahlon to attempt to form the next government. Looking at the parties, Kulanu actually has the best chance of being able to put together a wide coalition based on dealing with the problems of education, poverty and cost of living, the problems that effect Israelis most, day to day. As a moderate party, both Likud and the Zionist Union (really, when can we go back to just calling it Labor?) would be able to sell joining the coalition to their members. If just those 2 parties, who could never join a coalition led by the other, joined the coalition it would have 64 seats. Then add in Yesh Atid, which would probably join quickly, and you have 75 seats, and 4 of the 5 largest parties represented in the government. Add to that, Yisrael Beiteinu and Jewish Home might even join up, giving this centrist government 89 seats. It would be a broad, stable, centrist government representing the broadest possible number of Israelis. Netanyahu can’t do it, Herzog can’t do it, Lapid can’t do it, Deri sure can’t do it. Only Moshe Kahlon could even possibly do it.

Probably a pipe dream though. Most likely we wake up tomorrow to find out Kulanhu is going to be the ultra secular, ultra left wing flank of an ultra religious, far right wing, 61 seat coalition. See you for new elections in 2 years.

About the Author
Michael Hilkowitz holds degrees in History and Secondary Education from Temple University and is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for International Affairs. He is currently a Masters student in Security and Diplomacy Studies at Tel Aviv University. Living in Israel since 2012, he formerly served as the Chief Content Office for The Israel Innovation Fund, a 501.c.3 working to promote Israeli culture, art, and humanities innovation abroad.
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