Motti Inbari

Netanyahu Needs Herzog in His Coalition

After the Israeli election came to an end with a strong victory to the right, it makes sense for Prime Minister Netanyahu to form a right wing coalition with his natural partners from the right and the ultra-Orthodox parties Agudat Israel and Shas. However, the coming few years will bring Israel some difficult challenges on the international arena and, thus, a coalition with the Hamachane Hatzioni, headed by Itzhak Herzog, the Labor party, is more appropriate at this time.

We’ve already seen a hint of these challenges with the American reaction to Netanyahu’s zig-zag over the question of his support of a Palestinian state and the comment he made about Arab voters. People who know Netanyahu long enough know that when he is pushed to the wall he will take whatever measures needed to survive.  In 1999 he said to Rabbi Kaduri, one of the leaders of Shas, during elections, that “the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish”. This comment, of course, stirred a lot of backlash and eventually Netanyahu lost the elections. One shouldn’t take Netanyahu’s election comments too seriously. He is a great speaker, but sometimes he can say foolish things.

President Obama has two more years to leave a lasting legacy as the leader of the free world. So far, his diplomacy hasn’t yielded many positive results. Trying to reach a treaty with Iran over its nuclear plan, making comments on keeping Assad in power in Syria, trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict by putting pressure on Israel, and making the comments about the neutral nature of the shoppers of the Kosher deli in Paris – all these hint toward the legacy he wishes to leave. Where George W. Bush went to war with radical Islam, Obama wishes to make peace with it. Obama is trying to form the American-Iranian alliance, and this is also reflected in the type of the regime he wishes to keep in Syria and the war on ISIS. The only person who stood up against this developing alliance on the international arena was Netanyahu, who said, “Sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy”.

Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict by putting pressure on Israel to make compromises is part of this emerging alliance, and I expect that the pressure on Israel will just grow stronger in the coming weeks and months. Obama has some more reasons to pay back, due to Netanyahu’s speech in Congress. Thus, for political and also personal reasons, Israel will have to face difficult times in the near future from its greatest supporter.

I assume that this pressure will come also from Europe with greater strength. The fear in the continent is that “the beast” has awakened. A radicalized minority within the Muslim community in places like England, France, Belgium and Sweden started acting in terrorism and it is targeting the press and the Jewish communities. Many European leaders believe that the radicalization of their youth also comes from the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict, and resolving it will turn into a priority because it has local implications. Sweden, who is facing a serious crime problem by immigrants, has already started aggressively bashing Israel. I believe there is a connection between the two.

Thus, in the coming weeks and months an American-European front will move to pressure Israel for concessions with a threat of isolation and de-legitimization on the international level. Can Netanyahu stand against it with a center-right coalition that holds him back from concessions and portrays him as a peace hater? I doubt it. Netanyahu needs the left in his government to unite the people, and to show that he is pro peace and he represents the majority of the Israelis. Otherwise, he will have to go to early elections pretty soon.

About the Author
Dr. Motti Inbari is a Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and the author or editor of eight books. Motti was born and raised in Israel, and his PhD was from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For the last 15 years, he has been living with his family in the United States, currently in Raleigh NC. His Forthcoming book with Kirill Bumin is Christian Zionism of the Twenty-First Century: Evangelical Public Opinion on Israel, expected in 2023 with Oxford University Press.
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