Photo: Flickr/Israel defence Forces
In a move that surprised everyone, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved his government and called for early elections last week.Then came the double whammy: on Tuesday, Netanyahu cancelled elections and announced a new coalition government with the opposition Kadima party.
This coalition now controls 94 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, an unassailable majority. Former army chief of staff and centre-right Kadima’s newly-elected leader, Shaul Mofaz, will be the new deputy prime minister.
Netanyahu has said the new unity government will hold “serious and responsible” talks on Iran. But not everyone is convinced.
So, does this coalition increase the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran — which has so far been kept at bay by opposition from Europe, the U.S., and within Israel — or is this a chance for more moderate voices to be heard?
On the one hand, it increases the legitimacy and domestic support for a decision to attack
Ari Shavit, a political analyst at Haaretz, told GlobalPost the move is an attempt to preempt the American presidential elections in October by bringing the Iran crisis to a head in the fall using the unity coalition. The logic seems to be that if Obama is re-elected in November, he will no longer have to worry about domestic politics and will be able to press Netanyahu on Iran.
Some experts also believe the coalition is a ploy by Netanyahu to gain legitimacy for what is widely seen as an unpopular course of action, even by high-level officials like former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, according to Benny Avni of The New York Post.
Kadima leader Mofaz has long been against an attack on Iran, unlike Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak. Now that he is part of the ruling coalition, it shows the world that the Israeli government is united in its stance against Iran and could increase domestic support for an attack. Mofaz’s opposing views will likely not carry much weight in the inner council. “His influence will be limited. His hands will be tied because of the position of weakness from which he entered the coalition,” analyst Meir Javedanfar told the Guardian.
On the other, perhaps its the the perfect timing for Netanyahu to show his centrist leanings
The addition of the centrist Kadima party to what has been called one of Israel’s most right-wing coalition governments will lessen the clout of small right-wing parties and factions, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This gives Netanyahu more liberty,” Zalman Shoval, a foreign policy advisor for Netanyahu’s Likud Party told the LA Times. “He’s basically a centrist.” Some Israeli politicians believe moderate policies are more in line with the Prime Minister’s personal views, which he has been unable to pursue for fear of wrecking his coalition. If he wanted to, he could now capitalise on Mofaz’s opposition to an Iran attack to propagate a less aggressive policy.
Perhaps the most succinct argument comes from Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar’el: “Politicians who want to last don’t go to war.” defence Minister Barak has already hinted at taking U.S. elections into account for any plan on Iran, which puts the decision off until November. More importantly, while Iran would want Israel to continue threatening a war that would raise oil prices, that is the last thing debt-ridden, oil-starved Europe needs.
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