'JERUSALEM — For the first time in the history of the state of Israel, the head of the party that won the largest number of seats has failed to form a coalition government. Rather than allowing the head of the party that came in second to attempt to form a government, the Knesset voted to hold re-elections only six weeks after Israelis first cast their ballots.
Could this be the end the political career of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? It seems that this is indeed what the heads of several political parties here are determined to achieve. Not unlike hyenas who see a broken down and weak lion and go for the kill, the same Israeli politicians who made a coalition government with him impossible see a weak Netanyahu and hope that another election will finish him off. Still, elections are a risk for all involved — one that Netanyahu decided to take.
In Israel’s government, no one party ever wins the 61-seat majority in the Knesset needed to form a government. This means that coalition agreements between the large parties and the smaller ones are needed before a government can be presented. The elections that took place on April 9 ended with a win for Netanyahu. However, even though he received more seats in the Knesset than ever before, he had only a slim lead over the party that came in second. The question is always whether or not the head of the party who won the most seats can put together a coalition with enough votes to form a government and the assumption was that Netanyahu, the master of this trade, would be able to do so. But that was not the case.
When the dust settled and the horse trading commenced, Netanyahu began to work with anyone who would support him. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish or Haredi parties, which between them received 16 seats in the Knesset, were obvious partners. They have serious issues regarding the State’s attempts to force the Haredi community to serve in the army, breaking away from a seven-decade status quo in which they were exempt. Pending satisfaction on that score, they were in.
Netanyahu needed more partners to reach the required 61 votes. Two other partners brought him to 56 but he still needed another party to join the coalition, and that is where the wheels came off the wagon. The next logical party to join him was led by Avigdor Lieberman, a corrupt, violent politician about whom volumes can be written. Lieberman served as Netanyahu’s minister of defense and then resigned because he felt that Netanyahu was not tough enough on Hamas in Gaza.
Lieberman said he would not compromise on the issue of the Haredi draft — he supports a law that would force that community to be conscripted into the army — and thus it was impossible for him to join a coalition with the Haredi parties. The only other option was a national unity government, where the two largest parties unite and create a broad coalition. This is quite common in Israel, as the leaders of two parties that fought each other tooth and nail stand together and say that for the sake of the nation they will “put their differences aside.“'
Read more: Netanyahu is Gambling on New Elections to Stay in Power
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