Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bibi's Coalition Surprise: Mofaz Joins! No Early Elections!!

From day one, the morning after the last elections here in Israel, the Likud's Binyamin Netanyahu has been after Kadima to join forces with him and establish a national unity government.  And even before then he hasn't been shy about bringing former Likudniks from Kadima back into the Likud.  I heard him say that myself when Bibi spoke at the International Jewish Bloggers Convention.

Remember that Shaul Mofaz, recently elected head of Kadima, had been negotiating to join up with Netanyahu in the past.

I'm not all that surprised at this morning's headlines that Bibi has pulled a fast one with Mofaz. They have "eloped."  Kadima's new leader Shaul Mofaz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have established a national unity government.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz met Monday in order to form a national unity government that would postpone early elections at the last minute.
The Likud and Kadima factions began emergency meetings after 2:00 a.m. to discuss developments, with Likud and Kadima eventually approving the deal.
"We got important things," a Mofaz associate said. "If we wanted portfolios, we would have gotten them."
The deal passed unanimously in the Kadima faction.
Netanyahu - who arrived at the Likud meeting along with his former chief of staff Natan Eshel - told the Likud faction that contact with Mofaz over forming a unity government began a few days ago and bore fruit. Eshel apparently played a role in brokering the deal.
Now, according to the agreement, Kadima has agreed not to topple the government until the official end of its term on October 22 2013. Mofaz will also become vice premier, and will fill in for the prime minister when he is abroad.
Am I surprised?

Not really.  One reason is that as I had just written, Bibi had been trying to make an agreement with Kadima from day one.  The Kadima member most opposed was former leader Tsippi Livni who was toppled in Kadima's recent elections.  Livni subsequently left politics.  And another reason is, as I've written in other articles, I considered Bibi's decision to have elections on September 4 a serious mistake/dumb move.  I certainly disagree with many of his policies and decisions, but I don't think him dumb.  I'm less surprised by this announcement than I was about that date.

And going back to Mofaz's own political history:
A few months after his dismissal from the IDF, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed Mofaz as Minister of Security in 2002, following the collapse of Israel's unity government at the time. Mofaz joined the Likud party and ran in the primaries, but did not get into the Knesset because of the cooling-off period imposed on senior military figures. Mofaz continued to serve as Defense Minister in the next Sharon government between 2003 and 2006, a period that also saw the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
In 2006 Sharon quit Likud and formed the Kadima party, inviting Mofaz to join him. Mofaz refused, saying that "one does not leave his home," despite being offered the number two position in the party. He warned against Sharon joining a number of left-wingers supporting the Oslo Accords and a return to the 1967 lines. He also said that these people might drag Sharon to "dangerous" places in political and security-related terms.
However, a few days later, Mofaz changed his mind and joined Kadima, after polls predicted he was likely to lose the race to Likud's leadership. He then claimed Likud had become an extreme-right party. Mofaz was placed in the eighth place on Kadima's list, and after the government was formed, he was appointed to Transportation Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
No doubt that Netanyahu and Mofaz have been cooking this up a long time. The inclusion of Bibi's former chief of staff Natan Eshel means that Eshel was probably heavily involved over the years as contact person with Mofaz.


NormanF said...

The threat of elections forced Kadima's hand. It now enters Israel's government on far less advantageous terms than Livni could have originally negotiated. The Kadima faction wanted it all along except for Livni's veto on any national unity government. When they got rid of her, it opened the way to the party's joining with the Likud and as its just as well she's no longer in the Knesset. This won't lead to any dramatic Israeli policy changes but it serves to insulate Netanyahu from any pressure Obama can place upon Israel. And the opposition is well - outside the Zionist consensus. He is stronger than ever and has no one to challenge his power.

Batya said...

Yes, Norman, exactly. Now we need G-d's help.